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Bill would allow underage service members to drink on base

GRAND FORKS -- A bill introduced in the North Dakota Legislature would allow underage active military service members to drink alcohol on base.

The bill, sponsored by state Rep. Andrew Maragos, R-Minot, is scheduled for a hearing this morning in the House Judiciary Committee. It would allow service members between the ages of 18 and 21 to purchase and consume alcohol on a military installation in North Dakota if it's authorized by that base's commanding officer.

Maragos, the lone sponsor on the bill, said he is bringing it forward on behalf of a citizen. He said the rationale has to do with promoting camaraderie and trust among service members who may be relaxing in the evening and discussing that day's work.

"If you're in combat, you have to be able to trust and think you know the guy in the foxhole next to you," said Maragos, an Vietnam veteran.

He said that he plans to introduce an amendment to the bill that would allow underage service members to drink off base as well, at the request of the citizen, who Maragos believes is not currently an active service member. Maragos said he's not sure if he would support that amendment.

He acknowledged that the bill will be "very difficult" to pass.

"But we have to try," he said. "That's what this process is about."

Lt. James Fisher, a public affairs officer at the Grand Forks Air Force Base, said the base would decline to comment on the proposal.

John Hageman

John Hageman covers North Dakota politics from the Forum News Service bureau in Bismarck. He attended the University of Minnesota in the Twin Cities, where he studied journalism and political science, and he previously worked at the Grand Forks Herald and Bemidji Pioneer.  

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