Wisconsin is known for three things: beer, cheese and cheeseheads. Now its authority on the first of those things might get a little stronger. A group of Republicans in the Wisconsin state Congress are trying to lower the drinking age in America’s dairyland to 19.
The bill is being pushed by Republicans Adam Jarchow, Cindi Duchow, and Rob Swearingen. One of the main goals, the representatives claim, is to cut college binge drinking.
“I think generally speaking, consenting adults should be able to engage in these kind of activities without the government getting in the way,” Jarchow told local Wisconsin news channel Wisc-TV News 3. “I see no reason why we can send young men and women off to war but they can’t have a beer.”
Wisconsin already has some of the most lenient drinking laws in the country, and teens can already drink at bars and restaurants with a parent. A 2015 study published in the American Journal of Public Health found that Wisconsin was the drunkest state in the U.S. with the average Wisconsin resident drinking outpacing the national average by 148 drinks a year.
Bringing down the drinking age would save police time and effort enforcing drinking laws on college campuses they could then use to address drug abuse and sexual assault, Jarchow said. The only thing standing in the way is the Minimum Drinking Age Act.
The Minimum Drinking Age Act was passed under President Ronald Reagan in 1984. It set the standard that 10 percent of federal highway funds a state can get is tied to the state keeping the drinking age at 21. The Wisconsin representatives maintain that the bill will only go through if the state doesn’t lose its federal highway funds, which Jarchow is optimistic about.
“Part of the campaign promises that were made by Republicans in Congress and President Trump was that they were pro-federalism meaning they were pro-devolving federal power back to the states,” Jarchow told Wisc-TV News 3.
Vermont tried to pass a similar bill back in 2006, and states like Illinois have been working to ease up drinking laws for the past couple years. None of the proponents of those bills came at them with the confidence of Jarchow, though.