The State Senate voted 35-0 Wednesday to pass a bill, sponsored by Sen. Bill Burt, R-Alamogordo, that would require increased training for licensed bartenders and servers in an effort to prevent them from mistakenly serving alcohol to a minor.
Senate Bill 259 would amend the Alcohol Server Education Article of the Liquor Control Act to require frequent training of servers and shorten the valid server period from five years to three years.
The bill would reduce the charge of serving to a minor from a fourth degree felony to a misdemeanor, for the first offense. A fourth degree felony would still be charged on a subsequent offense of selling to a minor.
Burt said he is suggesting the change for a first offense because of the stigma the server would receive, which would most likely end their career.
“We need to understand that many of our servers in the hospitality industry are hardworking people who take their jobs seriously,” Burt said in a statement.
“I do not think they should be penalized so harshly by being charged with a felony if they mistakenly accept the fraudulent identification a minor might hand them. By charging a misdemeanor rather than a felony on an honest mistake, we are giving servers one more chance.”
Burt said the New Mexico Restaurant Association endorses his bill and organizations MADD and SADD have taken a neutral position.
Last year, the bill passed the Senate, but died in the House of Representatives. Burt hopes the House will pass the bill this year, so it can become law.