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Power hour bill moves forward

ST. PAUL - A video showing a young man celebrating his 21st birthday by downing shot after shot of alcoholic drinks was so upsetting that a Minnesota subcommittee chairman asked that it be stopped in the middle.

ST. PAUL - A video showing a young man celebrating his 21st birthday by downing shot after shot of alcoholic drinks was so upsetting that a Minnesota subcommittee chairman asked that it be stopped in the middle.

Voices in the background were cheering "go, go, go" while the young man put a shot glass to his lips time after time.

To the Fargo mother of a young man who died of the practice, known as the power hour, it was personal.

The video did not show Anne Buchanan's son, Jason Reinhardt, who died last year. But it might as well have.

"The first time I saw it, all I could see was Jason," Buchanan said Tuesday after the Minnesota House liquor subcommittee unanimously approved a bill to slow down the tradition.

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The bill, sponsored by Rep. Morrie Lanning, R-Moorhead, would set the time a person can legally drink alcohol at 8 a.m. the day he turns 21. Under current law, many people go to a bar at midnight when they turn 21 and drink as much alcohol as they can until the establishment closes.

Buchanan has testified before the North Dakota Legislature and last month told her story to a Minnesota Senate committee. She also has been interviewed for national news stories about dangers of power hour.

"We need to take charge of the situation and stop power hour," Buchanan said.

Among those joining her on Tuesday was Travis Maier, president of the Minnesota State University Moorhead student body, where Reinhardt was a student.

"You are in an environment where you are encouraged to drink," Maier told committee members about power hour.Delaying the legal time when 21-year-olds can start drinking until 8 a.m. won't stop the binge drinking, he said, but it would take the bar-closing deadline away and spread out the drinking. That might prevent deaths and injuries like those reported in recent years, he said."The alcohol overtakes reason," said Susanne Williams, assistant to the MSUM president.Williams said a survey at her school showed power hour is strong among students now turning 21, but today's 25-year-olds seldom reported taking part in the ritual when they became of age.

She said the power hour bill, which also is moving through the Senate, is just part of the change needed. The culture also needs to change, she added.

Rep. Dean Simpson, a New York Mills Republican and father of twin 22-year-old daughters, said the bill helps relieve the fear of all parents."The best time to pass this was yesterday," Simpson said.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Don Davis at (651) 290-0707

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