By Elianna Novitch
Legislation that would provide underage individuals with immunity from legal prosecution in the case of alcohol-related emergencies continues to advance in the Iowa Legislature.
A medical-amnesty bill passed unanimously in the House Judiciary Committee last week.
Student leaders and young Iowans across the state have joined to advocate for medical amnesty, an effort which started nearly two years ago. Last legislative session, the Senate passed the legislation, Senate File 415, unanimously in a 49-0 vote.
The bill now sits on the unfinished business calendar ready for debate, with many hoping the House will take it up soon.
“It’s certainly a priority of the Judiciary Committee. As the chairman, I’ve advocated for this being a bill that we move forward this session, and I’m hopeful that we’re able to accomplish that,” Rep. Zach Nunn, R-Bondurant, said. “I’m very proud to support the bill, but I want to give real recognition to the fact that this is the result of hard work and advocacy from the young people who are going to be most directly impacted by this.”
Members of student government from the three regent institutions have worked together throughout the process of advocating for medical amnesty.
“The fact that it has moved this quickly is really exciting to all students involved in the project, especially those who have been involved for multiple years,” Iowa State University Student Government President Cody West said. “A lot of things take much longer than two years. I think even when we got through the Senate unanimously last session, a lot of people were surprised at how quickly it was moving, but a lot of people felt defeated when we didn’t push it through at the end of the session.”
University of Iowa Student Government Director of Governmental Relations Mitchell Dunn said it has been an honor to work with the other student governments.
“They’ve been nothing but amazing, and I think it’s really opened up lines of collaboration for our organization and their organizations in the future on these major issues like student safety,” Dunn said.
He believes that the legislators were receptive and understanding of why Iowa needs medical amnesty, he said.
“A big thing that most people can get behind is ensuring that students have the tools to save a life, protect a life in this situation,” Dunn said. “Wanting to make sure that students are safe is really important to a lot of folks that we’ve talked to.”
UISG City Council liaison Ben Nelson said that Iowa is behind when it comes to medical-amnesty legislation.
“Iowa has this history of pushing the envelope in what it means to be a safe state for all its residents, but here, we’re really behind the ball. We’re one of 13 states in the country that does not have medical amnesty,” Nelson said. “It’s just a matter of where do your values lie. Do you value the lives of young people? I think if Iowa pushes this legislation through, it will make a very firm statement that we are here to protect our children.”