Wyoming was the last state in the nation to raise its legal drinking age to 21, and it could become the first in the country to lower the age limit, under a proposal heading for the Legislature.
Reps. H.L. Jensen and Dan Budd have prefiled a bill for the general session that starts next month that would repeal the law passed earlier this year that raised the age limit from 19 to 21."I don't agree with it in the first place," Jensen said of the measure that raised the age limit. "I think we disfranchised a segment of the population of the state, and I don't think it's done that much good in cutting down the (traffic) fatalities."
For several years the Legislature annually has harangued the pluses and minuses of raising the age limit. Proponents based their argument on the fact that Wyoming would retain its full share of federal highway revenues and possibly would reduce the number of highway fatalities by raising the age limit.
Opponents questioned the contention that teens who had been drinking contributed substantially to traffic accidents and said the federal government's threat of withholding highway funds if the limit weren't raised is blackmail.
Earlier this year, though, the Legislature finally succumbed and agreed to raise the limit to 21 as of July 1.
And next month, just six months after the higher limit took effect, the Legislature will be asked to undo what it has done.
The age increase "didn't accomplish the purpose of keeping the alcohol from 19- and 20-year-olds, if that's what they (proponents) wanted to do," Jensen said. "They just forced them out into the highways and parks, and made criminals out of them.
"You can't legally purchase this commodity until you're 21," he said. "If you think they're not getting the liquor, people are walking around like an ostrich with their head in the sand."
It was Budd, a rancher from Big Piney, who in 1987 killed an attempt to raise the drinking age by pocketing the proposed legislation when it reached the House Transportation Committee, which he chairs.
The committee had recommended that the measure pass, but Budd took the bill with him as he left the Capitol that day and it never reached the House floor.