Sep 012005
Authors: Chris Kampfe

Since the death of Samantha Spady last fall, the rally behind Spady's circle of family and friends has extended beyond the tight-knit webbing of the Fort Collins community, making its way to Denver and into the state legislature.

"When you have a high-profile event that suggests some need for law, that opens the window for some ways to change it," said John Straayer, a political science professor at CSU.

Most prominent is House Bill 1183, put forth by State Rep. Angie Paccione, D-Fort Collins. Paccione's bill is designed in two parts; one part would stiffen punishments for those who provide minors with alcohol; the other would provide minors who call 911 to get help for an intoxicated friend a "safe haven." This safe haven would offer certain immunities to these minors who make the emergency call.

On the other hand, those who purchase alcohol for minors would have to pay higher fines. Judges also are now given discretion to take away an offender's driver's license.

HB 1183 is one of the more clear responses to the tragedy and has been welcomed as a tool to educate and enable students to protect one another.

Fort Collins Police Services supports the bill and its concept, said Rita Davis, a spokeswoman for FCPS. CSU Police Cpl. Yvonne Paez said the CSUPD agrees, adding that students around Spady at the time of her death may have feared legal repercussions if they had called for emergency help.

Another alcohol law, HB 1112, has finally made open containers in motor vehicles illegal. The type of bill has been debated annually for a number of years.

"The open container issue probably got a little buoyancy from (the events at CU and CSU)," Straayer said. "These (propositions) have been around for a while."

The bill, sponsored by Rep. Fran Coleman, D-Denver and Sen. Peter Groff, D-Denver, will not be in contradiction of Senate Bill 58 which passed last year. SB58 is the "cork and go" law which allows restaurant patrons to re-cork a bottle of wine and legally transport it in their vehicle.

One alcoholic product that saw very little shelf life was known as Alcohol Without Liquid (AWOL). The product allowed users to inhale a vapor of alcohol through the lungs, without any drinking involved. Legislators quickly banned the product in Colorado with the passage of SB 34, by democrats Sen. Bob Hagedorn, D-Aurora, and Rep. Betty Boyd, D-Lakewood.

Because the alcohol bypasses the stomach and liver filtration when taken this way, it was marketed as not containing calories or giving hangovers. On these grounds legislators came to see AWOL as yet another way to overuse the substance, further perpetuating the Colorado "alcohol abuse" epidemic.

Much in the way the Patriot Act followed Sept. 11, 2001 or new arrest procedures were implemented after the Lacy Miller tragedy in Fort Collins a few years ago, Straayer said it is not uncommon for laws to follow tragic events.

"There is often a political reaction to extraordinary events," Straayer said. "This is nothing new."

All laws were enacted July 1, 2005.

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