University of Wisconsin’s student government is moving forward with a bill that would encourage underaged people to call police in emergency situations with reduced consequences by further engaging in talks with state legislators.
Associated Students of Madison’s Student Council passed a resolution in support of the Responsible Action Bill last December, and the Legislative Affairs Committee has been working to get it passed. If passed, the bill will enact policy on a statewide basis to provide protection for individuals when reporting any issue or crime even if they are underage and alcohol is present.
Legislative Affairs Chair Daniel Statter said the committee does not want the threat of an underage ticket to hold someone back from contacting law enforcement. Instead of ignoring the reality that underage students drink, Statter said Legislative Affairs wants to take down the barriers that might prevent someone from getting help.
ASM spokesperson David Gardner said for the last two months, a lot of effort has gone toward lobbying and building legislation.
Now that ASM has a draft of the bill written, Gardner said within the next two weeks the body is going to get co-sponsors for the bill itself. He said that will involve lobbying and working with people in Madison, representatives from Sen. Fred Risser, D-Madison, and other legislators.
Once they secure co-sponsors for the bill, Gardner said it can then go forward to the Legislature. He said their partnership with Risser has proven to be very productive.
According to Gardner, part of the process leading up to this point involved identifying which senators would be friendly to this issue. He said after being approached, Risser gave his support.
Statter said he has seen support for the bill from many legislators in Dane County and he is optimistic with feedback so far.
UW does not currently punish an underage student who is under the influence of alcohol for contacting authorities for help, Statter said. However, Statter said this provides no protection for state laws, and a student could still face the prospect of being charged for underage drinking and could keep students from reporting emergencies.
“We don’t want that to happen,” Statter said. “We want students to act the way they feel they should and not have the fear of potential refractions from reporting what they see.”
Statter said this is a statewide issue. He said the initiative will start with just UW System students, attempting to protect them from both state citations and disciplinary actions by other UW System schools.
Gardner said ASM working for this bill reflects its priority to ensure student safety.
“This is our purpose as student government to advocate for student issues, for the student body and students across Wisconsin,” Gardner said.
Statter said a lot of time has gone into this project and it is a great example of what ASM can do, not only for UW students but also for students across the UW System.
“Students want to act responsibly,” Statter said. “Particularly as Badgers, we have each others’ backs here.”