The daily Nebraskan. ([Lincoln, Neb.) 1901-current, September 22, 1988, Page 4, Image 4

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|~v _ • Curt Wagner, Editor, 472-1766
_ _ <m Mike Reilley, Editorial Page Editor
\ I I t-t-m-mm. Diana Johnson, Managing Editor
I PDTaSKdll Lee Rood, Associate News Editor
m. Bob Nelson, Wire Pige Editor
University of Nebraska-Lincoln Andy Pollock, Columnist
Craig Heckman, Columnist
Can Nebraska afford Karnes?
Sen. Dave Karnes has proven in his
brief 18 months in office that he has
no intention of adhering to the so
called federal spending cuts that he
claims he supports.
In his brief term he has spent more
money on travel expenses than all but
three other members of the U.S. Sen
ate, including those senators from
Alaska and Hawaii. Fie has also spent
more per capita on senate mailings
than any other senator and has the
highest per capita payroll in the sen
Can we as Nebraskans afford any
more of Karnes’ frugal spending?
McGraw Milhaven
arts and sciences
Editorials do not necessarily reflect
the views of the university, its employees,
the students or the NU Board of
The Daily Nebraskan ’s publishers are
the regents, who established the UNL
Publications Board to supervise the daily
production of the paper.
According to policy set by the regents,
responsibility for the editorial content of
the newspaper lies solely in tire hands of
its student editors.
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Teen-ager restrictions discussed
Should licenses be suspended for drug or aloe hoi violators?
Recently proposed legislation
that would require suspension
of teen-agers’ drivers licenses
for alcohol or drug violations needs
some rethinking.
The legislation, sponsored by
senators Withem, Hefner and Landis,
is well-researched and based on good
intentions, but says a little too much.
At first, I was skeptical of the idea
of singling out a specific segment of
the population on the basis of age. I
wondered if it’s even constitutional?
It is, according to the Nebraska
Attorney General Robert Spire.
Last December, Withem re
quested the attorney general’s opin
ion on whether a legislative bill,
similar to this year’s proposal, was
constitutional. Spire responded that it
was, citing a U.S. Supreme Court
‘“It (equal protection of the law)
does not foreclose government from
classifying persons or from differen
tiating one class from another when
enacting legislation,’” the attorney
general quotes.
But why is this certain segment of
the population, those ages 13 to 19,
the group to be singled out?
Information received from
Withem’s office and the Nebraska
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that it might be good to focus on this
particular segment.
An article entitled “Teen age
Drinking,” from Withem’s office,
cites evidence that the adolescent is
more vulnerable to the mental and
physical effects of alcohol and drugs.
For instance, the peak brain
growth occurs during middle and late
adolescence. Drinking may disrupt
this growth, causing “volatile mood
swings,” anxiety, confusion and ag
gression, the article states. Alcohol
consumption also damages the liver,
stomach and intestines, especially in
young people.
The article, published by the Na
tional Parent’s Resource Institute for
Drug Education Inc., also reports that
adolescents become alcoholics more
quickly than adults. Teens may be
come alcoholic in six months to three
years; adults usually become alco
holic in lOto 15 years. Over one-third
of the nation’s alcoholics are minors,
the report adds.
Information from the Nebraska
Crime Commission shows that in the
last 10 years teens, ages 13 through
19, committed 25 percent of the
state’s drug violations. More than 21
percent of the state ’s alcohol viola
lions were committed by people in the
same age range.
Evidently, teen-agers are respon
sible for a disproportionate number of
alcohol and drug crimes. They are
also the hardest nit by the effects of
these intoxicants.
Okay, I was wrong, the proposal
correctly focuses on a segment of
society that needs some guidance.
But it still needs some work.
Michelle Waite, a legislative aide
in Wilhem ’ s off ce, said the proposal,
which is similar to proposals that
failed during the past two legislative
sessions, is fashioned after a 1984
Oregon Law. In the first year follow
ing the enactment of the law, teen
liquor violations in Oregon decreased
12 percent and drug violations by
teens dropped 22 percent. The law
Or did it? Chris Eskridge, an asso
ciate professor of criminal justice at
UNL, didn’t think so.
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ments,” Eskridge said, “increase the
reluctance to arrest and hand down
sentences. And when the sentences
are handed down, they lend to be
made in a more biased fashion.”
Take, for example, the death pen
This year’s proposal requires
mandatory suspension (past Ne
braska proposals have only attempted
to aulhori/.e suspension) of drivers
licenses. Won’t that make it tougher
to avoid or reduce sentencing?
“No,” said Eskridge. “There is no
such thing as mandatory sentencing.
Legislators can say what they want,
but it won’t happen.”
He said negotiations between
prosecuting and defense attorneys
inevitably arise, and sentences are
reduced or dropped.
Again, bias sneaks into the picture,
where poorer people will be less
capable of hiring these crafty attor
Eskridge, however, doesn’t think
we should let the drinking problem
run rampant — not when 25,()00
people are killed on America’s high
ways each year. He suggested grass
roots pressure, like what’s been done
to combat cigarette smoking and its
harm la 1 effects.
But extensive “Just Say No” cam
paigns are at full steam across the
country . And still, the problems per
Joel Lundak, the substance-abuse
evaluator for the Lincoln Council on
Alcoholism and Drugs, suggested a
possible and appealing solution.
Lundak is in favor of the proposal,
but not as written. He doesn’t agree
that suspension of the license should
be mandatory. But, he said, if teens
don’t lose their licenses, they should
be required to take a drug and alcohol
evaluation and comply with its rec
Lundak has hit the nail on the head.
Presently, teens must choose be
tween a usually meager fine, plus
court costs, or the latter choice men
tioned above.
“Whoopee!” they say and sneak
some money from their savings ac
count, and mom and dad never know.
And the problems still persist.
But not with Lundak’s suggestion.
Facing such a tough decision — no
car, or a drug and alcohol evaluation
wouki undeniably make them
think twice about what they’re doing
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)r drugging.
Lundak said the importance of the
harsher punishment rests in its suc
cess not as simple punishment, but as
a tool in changing dangerous behav
Again, I agree. But one problem
lurks in my mind.
Not so long ago the “they” was
“we.” I still know the me I was be
tween four and nine years ago. What
will teen-agers think of this? They
will be affected. Their voice must be
I’ll do my best, briefly. If I knew
then what I know now about what
alcohol could do to my brain and
body, I would have cut way back.
That’s if I had consumed alcohol as a
miner, of course.
The proposal makes sense. It needs
some work, but it’s worth a try.
Society needs to attempt to protect
its young people from the harmful
effects of alcohol and drugs. Mote
importantly, society must explain
these effects and why it is protecting
teen-agers, not merely that the law
requires doing so.
Pollock is a senior news-editorial amjor
and a Daily Nebraskan editorial columnist