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Md. panel votes to stiffen penalties for underage drinking parties

February 24, 2016 The Washington Post

Urged on by two grieving fathers, a Maryland Senate committee voted Wednesday to approve a bill that would impose stiffer penalties — including jail time — on adults who provide alcohol to underage drinkers.

David Murk and Paul Li testified about the bright futures of their sons, Alex Murk and Calvin Li, college-bound teenagers who died last June after they got into a car driven by an intoxicated classmate after a party in Montgomery County at which minors were drinking alcohol.

“My heart was shattered in pieces,” Li told the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee, describing his trip to the morgue to see his son’s body. Murk said parents in his neighborhood continue to host parties where teenagers are allowed to drink.“We’re not seeing change in the community . . . as we try to make sense of his death,” he said.

The committee, which had planned to hear testimony but not to take a vote on the proposed legislation, was visibly moved. Before all of the witnesses had finished, Sen. Robert A. Zirkin (D-Baltimore County), the committee chairman, took the unusual step of calling for a vote on the bill.

It passed unanimously. The audience cheered, and members of the Murk and Li families cried.

Under the legislation that has been dubbed “Alex and Calvin’s Law,” a person who provides alcohol to someone younger than 21 would receive a prison sentence of up to one year and/or a fine of up to $5,000 for first offense. They would receive two years of incarceration and/or a $7,500 fine for a second or subsequent offense.

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