Lowering Drinking Age for Active Military up for Consideration in South Dakota

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National Guard soldiers
Source: Dan Vermillion, “National Guard Civilian//Soldier Campaign,” vermillionphotoblog.com, Feb. 5, 2014

On Jan. 31, 2018, state lawmakers in South Dakota’s House State Affairs Committee are scheduled to consider a bill (HB 1132) that would lower the drinking age to 18 for active duty service women and men, including those in the National Guard.

Representative Tim Goodwin, a Republican from Rapid City, a military veteran and the bill’s sponsor, stated, “If somebody is going to join the military and fight for his country and possibly give up his life for his country, he should be considered an adult and should be able to have an adult beverage. It’s an insult that they have to wait until they’re 21.”

Governor Dennis Daugaard (R) is concerned about the loss of federal funding tied to the National Drinking Age Act, which stipulates that states must set the minimum drinking age at 21 or the state will lose 8% of federal highway funding. Daugaard stated, “While we can choose to ignore that law, the consequence is that choice loses us about $300 million of national gas tax funding. That’s a lot of money.”

Currently, South Dakota law states that a person must be 21 to purchase and consume alcohol. However, anyone aged 18 to 20 may be sold alcohol if they are “in the immediate presence of a parent, guardian or spouse who is over the age of 21.” It is legal to refuse to sell alcohol to anyone under the age of 21. Selling alcohol to a person 18-20 years old who is not in the presence of a parent, guardian, or spouse who is of age is a Class 2 Misdemeanor. The penalty for the first offense is a maximum of 30 days in jail and a $200 fine for the licensee, up to a $1,000 fine for the business, and the clerk will have his or her driver’s license revoked for between 30 days and one year.


AP, “Lawmaker Proposes Lower Drinking Age for Members of Military,” usnews.com, Jan. 24, 2018

Dana Ferguson, “Daugaard: Proposal to Lower Military Drinking Age Comes with a Hefty Cost,” argusleader.com, Jan. 26, 2018

Dana Ferguson, “Lawmaker Looks to Drop Drinking Age for Active Duty Military Members,” argusleader.com, Jan. 24, 2018

KSFY, “South Dakota Lawmaker Looks to Lower Drinking Age for Military Members,” ksfy.com, Jan. 26, 2018

South Dakota Department of Revenue, “Legal Age Issues,” dor.sd.gov (accessed Jan. 26, 2018)