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Johnson Co. Discusses Social Host Ordinance

CORALVILLE, IA (CBS2/FOX28) - Johnson County law enforcement may soon be able to slap anyone with a fine for letting minors drink on their property.

The county Board of Health is currently looking for feedback on a Social Host ordinance that would hold parents and other property owners accountable if underage people are drinking at their homes.

About 14 percent of Johnson County 11th graders admit to binge drinking in the last 30 days, according to the Iowa Youth Survey. And though that is lower than the state average of 19 percent, Public Health Director Doug Beardsley says it is still too high.

He's hoping the Social Host law would set a new community standard and cut down on those numbers, as it has done in other states. Currently 19 other states have a similar law.

Some parents agree with the ordinance.

"I would feel responsible for my kids and they would be punished for it, and I would pay whatever I had to pay to compensate for it, because it's not right," Sheila Bartley said.

But for Janice Wallace, who lost her son in a drunk driving accident when he was 13, it seems safer to let kids drink in a home rather than sending them out into the streets.

"If they want to drink, they're going to find a way to drink anyway regardless. And having it in their home with a parent, as long as the parents are there -- no, I don't think it should be enforced," Wallace said.

Beardsley said, while situations like that are very unfortunate, he would challenge the idea that minors "are just going to drink" and hopes parents and the community can set a higher standard for their children.

The state gave Johnson -- and 22 other counties -- grants to pursue putting Social Host ordinances into place.

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