Proposed bill would lower legal drinking age to 19 in Wisconsin

- When you finally hit 18, there are so many things you can do that you couldn't do before. You can buy a lottery ticket, a pack of cigarettes, get a tattoo, and enlist in the army. But according to federal law, unless you’re 21, no drinks for you. 

A recent bill proposed by three Wisconsin Republican lawmakers would lower the state’s legal drinking age to 19.

Analysts say the bill is unlikely to pass. 

33 years ago, the U.S. Senate made the legal drinking age for all states 21. The bill included a provision that any state which made it younger than 21, would have 8% of its federal highway funding withheld. 

If passed, Wisconsin would lose an estimated $53.7 million this year alone.

Two years ago, a similar bill was introduced in California that would lower the legal drinking age to 18. That would’ve resulted in the state losing an estimated $200 million each year and caused an increase in state and local taxes according to the California State Legislature. 

The proposal never made it to the ballot. 

The Wisconsin bill seems to be following suit. Along with the federal funding decrease, the bill isn’t supported by Wisconsin Republican Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, who holds a key role in deciding which proposals are actually voted on. Nor is the bill supported by the leader of the senate, or Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker who would have to sign the bill if it passed the legislature.

The bill’s main sponsor, Rep. Adam Jarchow, former president of the Tavern League, made the argument that, “at 19 years old, there are very few things that you cannot do...nineteen year olds have legally been an adult for one year, can enlist in the military and be sent thousands of miles away to fight but can’t enjoy an alcoholic beverage.”

He also argued that approval of the bill would save states and college campuses, “countless hours and hundreds of thousands of dollars,” claiming those dollars could be spent on issues like drug abuse and sexual assaults instead of policing underage drinking. 

Wisconsin is the only state in the country where first offense drunk driving is considered a traffic offense instead of a crime. 


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