Proposal calls for lower drinking age

If MU freshman Paul Fraas has his way, younger students will no longer have to wait to hit the bars downtown.

Fraas is attempting to gain enough faculty support to create a Missouri 18 to Drink club that will advocate an amendment to lower the state drinking age.

The National Minimum Drinking Age Act of 1984 created a law mandating all states enforce a minimum age of 21 for the sale, purchase and private possession of alcoholic beverages in order to receive federal funding for highways.

All 50 states and the District of Columbia enforce the act, but earlier this year, the Missouri State Auditor's Office received a state amendment proposal from Michael Mikkelsen to lower Missouri's drinking age to 18.

"(Michael has) always been very proactive in wanting to expand liberty for everybody," said Marcus Mikkelsen, Michael's brother and a member of the campaign. "He saw that there was kind of a disconnect where people aged 18 to 21 have lots of different liberties, and this liberty wasn't being given to them."

If the proposal succeeds, people 18 and older will be able to sell, purchase and possess alcohol, but the state would lose $50 million in federal transportation funds, according to the state auditor's fiscal note.

"In my opinion, the $50 million loss is almost a negligible loss," Marcus said.

In 2006, the Missouri Department of Transportation reported spending $2.3 billion.

After the State Auditor's Office analyzed the fiscal impact of the proposed amendment, it moved to the Secretary of State's office for approval. Secretary of State Robin Carnahan approved a petition circulation request for the campaign in June. The petition requires 100,000 signatures in order to get the initiative onto the November 2008 ballot, but Marcus said the organization has less than 1,000.

Fraas, the MU campus coordinator for the campaign, said he hopes to contribute at least 2,500 signatures but has been having trouble.

"People are being like, 'Oh, no one's ever going to vote for that, so why bother?'" Fraas said. "People ask why should I support this, because it's not going to be passed. But if we could all band together, I honestly believe we could get this together."

Republican candidate for governor Anthony Ince, who publicly supports Mikkelson's initiative, said most people are unaware of an age contradiction between the law and Missouri state statute.

State law states a minor is anyone under the age of 17 or 18, depending on where he lives in the state, and anyone older than that age is his own legal guardian. But state statute allows legal guardians to give their children alcoholic beverages. Ince said an 18-year-old is his own legal guardian but cannot purchase alcohol under the law.

"If you're 18, you can leave your mother and father's home, you can own property, you can own your own vehicle, you can die for your country, but you can't drink," Ince said. " It's constitutionally feasible that you should be able to buy alcohol if you choose."

Ince said he believes the initiative will neither improve nor worsen substance abuse among college-aged kids.

"People who are under 21 right now who are drinking are going to continue to drink whether there's a law or not," Ince said. "It doesn't matter if you're 18 or 40, people have substance-abuse problems."

Ince said the issue is determining when a person is an adult.

"State law basically says that when you're 18 years of age, you're an adult," Ince said.

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