By Hunter Hines
Christian Action League
June 7, 2019
RALEIGH – Wednesday, HB 389 – ABC/Univ Athletic Facility was taken up by the Senate Education/Higher Education Committee. The proposed legislation had passed the House by a large margin (88-24).
HB 389 would authorize public colleges and universities to sell beer and wine sales at stadiums, athletic facilities, and arenas located on their property.
Present to champion the bill was Rep. John Bell (R-Wayne), and Sen. Rick Gunn (R-Alamance), who had filed companion legislation (SB 296) on the Senate side. Bell told committee members that fourteen of the state’s schools within the university system had expressed support for the bill.
Rev. Mark Creech, executive director of the Christian Action League, said he had expected the Senate’s response to the legislation to be much like the favorable response by the House.
“I was present to testify on the bill despite its overwhelming support in the House, because I believe it’s misguided, and I felt a moral responsibility to continue opposing it,” he said. “However, I was pleasantly surprised to find that during the bill’s discussion in the Senate Education Committee, there was more angst about it on the Senate side than I had previously thought. We may have gained a little traction against the bill. Maybe not enough to stop it, but I’m cautiously optimistic we might improve the measure so that its negative impact could be lessened.”
Rev. Creech’s testimony against the bill before the committee pulled no punches.
“I’m going to say something very striking, but I urge you not to have a knee-jerk reaction but carefully consider the assertion. It is, I believe, a reproach when our universities are more concerned with whether a Confederate statue remains on a college campus than it is whether alcohol is sold on a college campus,” said Creech in his remarks.
“A controversial statue or similar symbols of our past may offend the sensibilities of some, but alcohol abuse among college students is contributing to nearly 2000 of them dying every year from an alcohol-related unintentional injury or a motor vehicle crash. Nearly 700,000 college students are assaulted every year by another student who has been drinking. Every year, nearly 100,000 students report experiencing alcohol-related assault or date rape. And about 1 in 4 college students have serious academic problems because of their drinking. Now that’s real data from research over the years that you can take to the bank,” Creech added.
See story related to Creech’s comments: The Law of the Mob Topples Silent Sam Since Silent Sam was unlawfully toppled and removed from the campus of the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, the University continues to insist it must not return to campus. Duke University removed a statue of Robert E. Lee from Duke Chapel. Duke University has alcohol sales at its collegiate sporting events and UNC Chapel Hill wants to the same privilege.
Before the bill’s hearing on Wednesday, sponsors had provided committee members with data that alleges incidences of alcohol-related harms during game days drop when colleges and universities provide alcohol in a controlled setting. During his testimony, Creech expressed he was deeply concerned that information “was seriously in question.”
Creech argued the data provided did not prove alcohol-related harms would diminish if the universities or colleges were allowed to sell it. “Even if the numbers aren’t skewed, it is more likely these alleged improvements can be attributed to things like a greater police presence on game days, and not that the university is now selling alcohol at collegiate events,” he said.
“None of the data provided is scientific or peer-reviewed research,” Creech insisted. “Nonetheless, there is very reliable evidence, peer-reviewed scientific research that unequivocally concludes that making alcohol more available, among a population that already drinks heavily and a substantial portion of which is already in need of some clinical intervention around their drinking, will exacerbate rather than alleviate excessive drinking and related harms.”
He urged committee members not to allow the health and general well-being of students to be placed at risk to enable the universities to make more money from alcohol sales. “That would be money made at the student’s expense,” he said.
Following Rev. Creech’s testimony against HB 389, representatives from Appalachian State, NC Central, Elizabeth City State, UNC-Chapel Hill, UNC Greensboro, and NC State stood to show their support for HB 389. Their spokesperson was Rick Steinbacher, a senior associate athletics director from UNC-Chapel Hill. On behalf of the group, Steinbacher echoed the arguments made by the bill’s sponsors, while also promising that the state’s institutions of higher learning would provide alcohol in a controlled setting.
At various stages of the debate, certain Senators expressed grave concerns about the proposal.
Senators Chuck Edwards (R-Buncombe) and Rick Horner (R-Johnston) said that they would be voting against the bill because there would be no place in the stands where parents could take their children without the risk of being seated near drunken fans.
Sen Norman Sanderson (R-Carteret) said sponsors of the bill reported they had consulted with a lot of stakeholders. “But there is one group of stakeholders that I haven’t heard from, and that’s the parents of these students that they send to our universities,” he said. “I don’t know what their attitude would be if they knew we were sending their young person into that kind of environment. You can’t simply say they got to be over 21…Availability trumps a lot of different obstacles…that doesn’t seem to be an obstacle to many of these young people on our college campuses.” Sanderson added he would vote against the bill.
Sen. Don Davis (D-Pitt) asked collegiate representatives whether they could refute Rev. Creech’s arguments that a reduction of alcohol-related incidences could more likely attributed to a greater police presence on game days than it could be to universities selling alcohol.
When Steinbacher didn’t seem to provide a sufficient answer for Davis, Davis implied that with alcohol problems being so rampant among college students, the greater police presence is something colleges should be doing rather than expanding alcohol sales throughout their stadiums.
Senator Jerry Tillman (R-Randolph), a Chairman of the Senate Education Committee, made the motion for a favorable report. The bill passed in committee by a voice vote.
The bill now moves to be considered by the Senate Commerce and Insurance Committee.