In a unanimous vote, the Senate approved "social host" legislation. SF 2310 sends a message that it is not appropriate for adults to host underage drinking parties. Those who do will pay a $200 penalty for the first offense and a $500 penalty for a second or subsequent offense.
It is currently illegal to provide alcohol to anyone under 21, but it is not against the law to host a party for underage drinkers on your property if you do not provide the alcohol. Many cities and counties have ordinances that prohibit hosting parties for underage drinkers, but state law does not prohibit it.
Underage drinking is a serious health and safety problem. In 2012, more than 200 Iowans under the age of 18 were convicted of Operating While Intoxicated. According to National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, car crashes are the leading cause of death for teens. About a quarter of those accidents involve an underage drinking driver.
For parents who think teen drinking is inevitable, Mothers Against Drunk Driving has advice and resources that will help you talk to your kids about the dangers of drinking. Learn more at www.madd.org/underage-drinking.
In other efforts to keep kids safe, the Senate passed a bill requiring school districts to test for radon, a natural radioactive gas that can cause cancer. Even though you cannot see, smell or taste it, radon is the leading cause of lung cancer in nonsmokers, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.
Radon is an especially big problem in Iowa. Our state leads the nation in the amount of radon in our soil. The average indoor radon concentration in Iowa is more than six times the national average. Radon-induced cancer causes an estimated 400 deaths per year in Iowa.
The bill we approved requires school districts to test for the presence of this silent killer and report radon levels to the Iowa Department of Public Health. The results will be posted on the Department of Public Health website so that parents and teachers are aware of the radon levels in their local school buildings. Currently, childcare centers in Iowa must test for radon within one year of licensing or renewal and every two years following the initial test.
A recent public opinion poll shows that 71 percent of Iowans favor requiring schools to test for radon and to take steps to reduce levels if necessary. Cost for radon testing in a typical school building ranges from $500 to $1,500. It is a price worth paying for the health and safety of our kids.
This is a legislative column by Senator Amanda Ragan, representing Franklin, Butler and Cerro Gordo counties. For newsletters, photos and further information, go to www.senate.iowa.gov/senator/ragan.
To contact Senator Ragan during the week, call the Senate Switchboard at 515-281-3371. Otherwise she can be reached at home at 641-424-0874. E-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Senator Ragan is an Assistant Senate Majority Leader, chair of the Human Resources Committee and vice-chair of the Health & Human Services Budget Subcommittee. She also serves on the Appropriations, Natural Resources & Environment, Rules & Administration and Veterans Affairs committees.