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Lawmakers tinker with 'turning 21'

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By Brian Bakst

Associated Press

ST. PAUL -- Trying to combat a birthday binge-drinking practice dubbed "power hour," Minnesota lawmakers are primed to make young people turning 21 wait until after sunrise instead of the stroke of midnight to have their first legal drink.

On Wednesday, the Senate Commerce Committee approved a bill delaying drinking privileges until 8 a.m. The bill now goes to the full Senate; it has more committee stops left in the House.

Minnesota allows bars to stay open until 2 a.m. though most close at 1 a.m. A budding tradition for people turning 21 is to head to the bar at midnight and down as many shots of booze as they can before closing time.

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Anne Buchanan of Fargo, N.D., said that's what her son Jason Reinhardt did on his 21st birthday a year ago. After leaving a Moorhead bar with his fraternity brothers, Reinhardt died in his sleep of alcohol poisoning, his blood-alcohol content registering .36 percent.

"It's only one small step, I know that," Buchanan said of the bill. "At least it's making an awareness in society."

The Minnesota Licensed Beverage Association backs the bill, said past president Colin Minehart, who owns the Main Street Grill in Alden.

"We're about promoting responsibility, not having 21 drinks in an hour after you turn 21. That is stupid," he said. "This is blatant over-serving and this has to stop."

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