Monday, March 21, 2011

Russ Condemns 'Happy Hour' Legislation

Rep. Todd Russ today condemned legislation that would authorize “happy hours” at bars across Oklahoma, saying the bill would result in more tragedies and increased costs to taxpayers.

“In a year when we face a $500 million budget shortfall, I think it is ridiculous for the state of Oklahoma to take the time to entertain an irresponsible bill that would allow people to play in the sandbox for hours with hard liquor,” said Russ, R-Cordell. “That’s like putting a rattlesnake in a crowded room with the lights out. Somebody is going to get bit, we just don’t know who or when.”

House Bill 1354 would allow bars to offer “happy hours” between 4 p.m. and 7 p.m., expanding access to hard liquor. Russ said the bill has a serious downside and little upside.

“We’re talking about increasing access to a very addictive product with significant, negative side effects,” Russ said.

In 2009 there were 4,972 alcohol related crashes in Oklahoma alone that resulted in 209 fatalities in addition to 3,452 persons injured, based on data from the OHSO. That doesn’t count the less significant incidents that aren’t reported.

“The state of Oklahoma literally spends hundreds of millions of dollars each year on alcohol-related deaths and injuries as well as substance abuse treatment,” Russ said. “To exacerbate that problem and increase the associated costs during a severe budget shortfall is ridiculous. We have better things to be legislating.”

However, he said the human toll was even more significant than the financial cost to taxpayers.

“I would encourage my colleagues to talk to any family that has lost a loved one because he or she was killed by a drunk driver,” Russ said. “You can’t vote to increase ‘happy hour’ without voting to increase those deaths and the degradation on our society. This is simply bad policy from beginning to end.”

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