Just months away from the two-year anniversary of Jerry Hill introducing Assembly Bill 45, which closes a loophole in current legislation exempting bus drivers from rules holding them responsible for underage drinking on board, Governor Jerry Brown signed the bill Sunday.
Hill is holding a news conference Tuesday in celebration at the home of Doug and Linda Studebaker, whose son Brett, 19, was killed in February 2010 after drinking on a bus for a friend’s birthday and crashing into a sound wall on Highway 101 on his drive home. The bill is named for Brett.
In December of 2010, Hill stood in front of Franklin Elementary School, where Brett’s childhood friends had created a memorial, and announced the legislation.
AB 45 imposes stricter laws on “party buses,” an issue heightened by the death of Santa Cruz resident Natasha Noland, 25, in July after she fell from a party bus while fighting with a 20-year-old girl.
“The law hasn’t kept up with the times," Hill, D-San Mateo, said at a July press conference. “[The buses] are essentially booze cruises, a party on wheels.”
Under the bill, the bus company is required to ask if those under 21 will be on board. If so, a chaperone of at least 25 years old must accompany the group and be responsible for making sure those under 21 years old are not drinking and notifying the driver if they are.
If those under 21 years old are found drinking, the alcohol must be locked under the bus or the party will be terminated.
The bill also holds drivers accountable for verifying the age of passengers they suspect to be under 21. Drivers can face fines of $2,000, license suspension or revocation or a misdemeanor for noncompliance. The chaperone similarly would face a misdemeanor for supplying alcohol to minors.
The bill will take effect Jan. 1, 2013.