House Panel Rejects Alcohol Warning Bill

Article excerpt

Journal Record Staff Reporter

An attempt to require restaurants to post warnings about potential harm to unborn babies caused by drinking alcoholic beverages was thwarted Monday by a state House panel.

The House of Representatives Commerce, Industry and Labor Committee voted down House Bill 1303 by Rep. Angela Monson, D-Oklahoma City.

In other action, committee members approved House Bill 1426, which would protect collective bargaining agreements of public utilities from interference by the Oklahoma Corporation Commission.

Under Monson's bill, the Alcoholic Beverage Laws Enforcement Commission would have required warning signs where alcoholic beverages were sold regarding the effect on pregnant women. Restaurants and grocery stores would have been among the affected businesses.

The language on the sign would have been: "Warning: Drinking alcoholic beverages, including distilled spirits, beer, coolers and wine, during pregnancy can cause birth defects."

The commission would have been charged with preparing the signs, and making them available to the businesses at cost of production.

For "non-intoxicating" beverages, which refers to 3.2 beer, the Oklahoma Tax Commission would also have required a warning sign posted in businesses that sold it.

The bill would have been effective Sept. 1.

Oklahoma First Lady Rhonda Walters, an active leader in the "Healthy Futures" campaign that promotes good health habits for pregnant women, testified at the committee meeting in support of House Bill 1303.

"We don't know if it's one, five or 10 drinks that causes fetal alcohol syndrome," she said. Although some restaurant owners might object to the signs as "unsightly," Walters noted that the cost of two days' hospitalization of an infant born with fetal alcohol syndrome would pay the total cost of signs needed to do the campaign.

"We're just saying, please put this sign up and jog somebody's memory, and save a child," she said. The Oklahoma Restaurant Association did not oppose the bill, she said.

Rep. Charles Key, R-Oklahoma City, said it was "amazing to me that people at this time would not know the possible damage to themselves and their baby" by drinking alcoholic beverages. …