The Party Host Law project was a legislative initiative where Dover Youth to Youth students from the Saint Thomas Aquinas High School (STA) team promoted the passage of a city ordinance and a state law that would have the effect of making it illegal to host an underage alcohol (or drug) party – whether or not the host supplied the alcohol.
In 2002, members of the STA team decided to research this legislation and attempt to get it before the state legislature. The team took extensive steps to meet with several leaders at the state level including: John Stephen, then Assistant Director of Public Safety; Aidan Moore, Chief of NH Liquor Enforcement; John Bunker, head of New Futures; and State Representative Bill Knowles who offered to sponsor the bill.
Students also invited the lobbyist of the NH Beer Distributors to meet with the team, winning the industry’s support of the measure. They also presented their idea to the NH Governor’s Traffic Safety Commission.
Youth to Youth members, Andrew McLean and Kaitlyn Reilly, testified before the NH House of Representatives Judicial Sub-committee. This committee supported the proposal and the bill was later passed on a voice vote in the full house. The students then testified at the NH Senate Judicial Sub-committee and hit a bump in the road. The Senators were reluctant to support the bill due to fears that police would use it to penalize parents that provide alcohol to their kids in the home.
Concerned about the Senate, students got on their phones and computers to contact all of the Senators and ask them to override the sub-committee’s recommendation to kill the bill. The hard work paid off and the full Senate opposed the sub-committee’s recommendation to kill the bill. However, through a political maneuver by one Senator who stated “I was afraid the bill was going to pass” the bill was sent to a review committee. As a result, the bill was put off until the 2003 – 2004 legislative session.
In October of 2003 (the next fall), with the legislature hedging on passing the State law, the STA team also submitted the bill to the Dover City Council as a city ordinance that would have the weight of law only in Dover. That proposal received strong community support and was passed 8-0 on December 10, 2003. A few weeks later three young men were charged with hosting a large party of over 70 teens at their Central Ave. apartment.
The bill finally passed the NH Senate sub-committee and passed both the NH House and Senate in 2004. That spring, members of Dover Y2Y were brought to the state capitol to witness the signing of HB 464 into law by Governor Craig Benson. The text of the law can be found here.
Within a month of the governor signing the bill, the new state law was put to use by local law enforcement officers in Laconia and two other NH communities. Since its passage, this law has been aggressively used by police throughout New Hampshire as a tool to prevent underage drinking.