- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 31, 2005

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — One Wisconsin lawmaker figures if the U.S. military trusts 19-year-olds with a $10 million tank, then the state should trust them with a beer.

State Rep. Mark Pettis, a Republican who served in the Navy, is pushing a bill that would drop the drinking age to 19 for Wisconsin service members — but only if the federal government agrees it will not yank an estimated $50 million a year in highway aid.

A federal law ties federal highway dollars to compliance by the states with the required drinking age of 21.

“We’re treating these young men and women as adults when they’re at war. But we treat them like teenagers when they’re here in the states,” he said.

Mr. Pettis concedes his proposal will be a tough sell unless Wisconsin gets the federal government’s approval — or at least permission — to start a pilot program to prove the change would not cause more accidents or other problems that opponents associate with a younger drinking age.

Wisconsin transportation officials say the federal government has told them there is no process to apply for a waiver from the drinking-age requirement, and creating one would likely take an act of Congress.

The bill would create an exemption for 19- and 20-year-old service members from Wisconsin — but not for troops from out of state. A valid military ID along with a Wisconsin driver’s license or identification card would be required.


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