Northern Iowan

Amnesty bill seeks to prevent student deaths

NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF DRUG ABUSE/Public Domain

NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF DRUG ABUSE/Public Domain

SARAH HOFMEYER, Staff Writer

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A new bill in the Iowa Legislature, Senate File (SF) 415, could change Iowa policy in favor of good Samaritans in precarious situations — specifically, calling for amnesty for minors in possession of alcohol in instances where medical attention is needed.

Maggie Miller, Northern Iowa Student Government (NISG) director of governmental relations, said the bill was recently passed through the Iowa House Judiciary Committee unanimously.

According to the Committee on Judiciary, SF 415 will provide immunity “from certain alcohol-related criminal offenses and prohibits certain disciplinary sanctions for persons who seek or require emergency assistance for alcohol overdoses or protection from certain crimes.”

This amnesty already exists on UNI’s campus. According to section 3.02 of the Student Conduct Code, the policy, titled the Good Samaritan Provision, dictates that amnesty is available for students who need medical assistance or aid if there are minor policy violations, like underage drinking, occurring at the time of the incident.

Jared Riter, senior public administration major and member of the UNI Legislative Liaison Team, explained that the Good Samaritan Provision is helpful in UNI’s lobbying efforts.

“When talking about SF 415, we share information with legislators about the bill or how UNI’s policy is very similar to the bill,” Riter said. “This gives them a better understanding of what the bill could look like if passed into law.”

Miller explained that this bill will be important for underage drinkers who find themselves, or others, in need of emergency medical assistance but are hesitant to call for help for fear of repercussions, like a Minor in Possession charge. Miller noted that this initiative has passed in part because of coordinated lobbying efforts by Iowa Regent students.

Efforts to pass this legislation began two years ago with former Iowa State University Student Government (ISUSG) President Cole Straudt.

According to the Iowa State Daily, Straudt’s administration sparked this effort because of his personal experience. Straudt once saved a friend who was choking on their own vomit — a symptom of alcohol poisoning. This experience shaped his decision to pursue SF 415 during his presidency.

Since then, the new ISUSG administration, NISG and the University of Iowa Student Government have joined together to pursue this amnesty bill.

Nathan Carignan, a senior public administration major, feels SF 415 is imperative.

“Of course it should be passed,” Carignan said. “I can’t believe it is not already a law.”

According to Riter, the next step to passing this bill into law will be a House vote on SF 415. The session will end on April 17, according to the 87th Iowa General Assembly, meaning it is possible that the bill will not get voted on until next year’s session.

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Amnesty bill seeks to prevent student deaths