Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Alcohol Law Not Working Legislators Seek New Solutions

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Alcohol Law Not Working Legislators Seek New Solutions

Article excerpt

TALLAHASSEE -- A law designed to curb drunken driving accidents

and the illegal sale of alcoholic beverages to minors isn't

working, according to a two-year study by the House Regulated

Industries Committee, prompting legislators to wonder what to do

about it.

The question is: "Should we shine it or get rid of it?" said

Rep. Jim King, R-Jacksonville, who will head a subcommittee

charged with coming up with a solution.

Critics, including many Bureau of Alcoholic Beverages and

Tobacco agents, say that the Responsible Vendor Act is too

heavily influenced by the alcohol industry to be effective.

The law was passed in 1989 guaranteeing light penalties for

licensed alcohol vendors who are caught making illegal sales,

so long as they have been trained in how to spot and refuse

drinks to minors. The law was written in part by former state

officials who left government work to set up training

businesses.

"Our laws are so weak and ineffective that we are letting

innocent people be killed and maimed because alcohol is being

abused and the state is in effect looking the other way," said

Sgt. Robert White, an Alcoholic Beverages and Tobacco agent

testifying before the Regulated Industries Committee recently.

Convenience store and bar owners, on the other hand, are trying

to convince legislators that the voluntary training programs do

help, and more regulation would be expensive and ineffective for

a poorly educated employee force with a high turnover rate.

About 8,000 licensed vendors have joined training programs.

"We need to put the onus on some of those underage pur-chasers,"

said Dale Eggers, owner of the Roadhouse Fore-most Liquors in

Orange Park. "Minors need to share some of the responsibility."

According to the House study, an estimated one out of five teens

succeeds in buying alcohol. Furthermore, accidents involving

drunken teenage drivers have climbed for the past two years. …

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