Law and Justice committee to discuss problem of binge drinking

Friday meeting to include hearing on Padden’s college DUI-court legislation

OLYMPIA…Sen. Mike Padden knows the Legislature can’t prevent binge drinking. Still, the chairman of the Senate Law and Justice Committee has called a Friday-morning work session to bring the topic into the policy-making arena and consider a new approach to addressing the problem.

The committee meets at 8 a.m. in Hearing Room 1 of the John A. Cherberg Building on the Capitol Campus. It also will hear Senate Bill 5023, Padden’s legislation to let Washington colleges and universities convene DUI courts.

“Parents should be able to expect their children will be relatively safe at school, whether it’s a grade school or a university,” said Padden, R-Spokane Valley. “So when we see students being hurt or fatally injured at our universities because of alcohol – tied to binge drinking, let’s assume – it’s time to ask: can government do anything to address and discourage that behavior?”

Padden is familiar with criminal DUI courts from his 12 years as a Spokane County District Court judge. He believes the concept also may be effective in a higher-education setting when tied to student conduct codes with penalties that could include withholding diplomas.

Among those appearing before the committee Friday morning will be Robert King, president of the Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education and a former chancellor of the State University of New York system. King, a former New York state lawmaker, also is on an independent national advisory board associated with The Century Council, a non-profit organization funded by distillers that include the owner of a longtime Yakima Valley winery.

“Although binge drinking appears to be on the decline nationwide,” King wrote in an e-mail concerning his visit to Olympia, “that’s no comfort when it’s your family member or friend who has been hurt or killed. I’ll be sharing information with the committee about how campuses in other states and the distilling industry are addressing this problem.”