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Assembly Panel Greenlights Turner, Codey Bill Creating Task Force To Curb Underage And Binge Drinking

TRENTON — The Assembly Education Committee today approved legislation sponsored by Senate Education Chairwoman Shirley Turner and Senate President Richard J. Codey that would create a taskforce to examine best practices to curb the growing problem of underage and binge drinking on college and university campuses.

“I applaud the Assembly for moving this bill forward,” said Senator Turner (D-Mercer). “This isn’t about crafting a one-size-fits-all alcohol policy for all of New Jersey’s institutions of higher learning, but rather working to set up a basic set of guidelines for campuses to follow when dealing with underage drinking. This task force will employ a dynamic approach to engage stakeholders that cover every area of the issue, as well as parents so that communication can start early to address the issue before it becomes a problem.”

“This is a great step forward in trying to address a timeless problem,” said Sen. Codey (D-Essex). “Rather than reinventing the wheel, this task force will help us identify the best practices to address underage and binge drinking, the ones that have really made a difference, so that we can model them at other institutions. At the very least, we hope to find ways to encourage responsibility, but ultimately we hope this undertaking will save lives.”

Bill S2491, which was approved by the full Senate in May, would establish the Task Force on Underage Drinking in Higher Education to be comprised of 20 members including: the Chairman of the New Jersey Commission on Higher Education, the Director of the Division of Alcoholic Beverage Control or their designees; and 18 members to be appointed by the Governor, including college presidents, vice presidents and administrators, municipal and campus law enforcement, college students, alcohol proprietors, a member of the state Division of Addiction Services and representatives from the New Jersey Prevention Network, the New Jersey chapter of Mothers Against Drunk Driving, and the K-12 education community.

The legislation came about after a lengthy hearing on the issue before the Senate Education Committee last November, sparked in part by the Amethyst Initiative, a group of college presidents that was formed to debate lowering the legal drinking age. Both Senator Turner and Senator Codey, who testified at the hearing, adamantly oppose lowering the legal drinking age, citing a litany of statistics that demonstrate that countless lives have been saved since the drinking age was raised to 21.

The bill now heads to the full Assembly for final legislative approval.

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