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Teen drinking bill, born of a mom's grief, loses

By Jennifer M. Fitzenberger -- Bee Capitol Bureau
Published 2:15 a.m. PST Wednesday, January 14, 2004

Lynne Goodwin's grief deepened Tuesday when the Assembly Health Committee voted down a bill to help curb teenage drinking. Assembly Bill 216 is known as Casey's Bill after Goodwin's 20-year-old daughter from Exeter, who was killed by an underage drunken driver. It would have assessed a fee on beer and distilled spirits makers to fund community-based alcohol recovery centers for teens.

The bill failed 9-9, with seven members not voting. It needed a majority to pass. Legislators voting against it said they could not support creating a new program when the state is deep in debt.

 After the vote, Goodwin shook her head and said lawmakers who killed AB 216 don't understand its implications.

 "I don't feel like they've educated themselves yet," Goodwin said, tears welling in her eyes. "It's not just about Casey. This can't be about one person. It's about good legislation."

Lynne Goodwin and her two surviving children, Christopher, 18, and Kellie, 14, pay a visit Tuesday to the Capitol, where a bill inspired by the traffic death of Goodwin's daughter Casey was defeated.
Sacramento Bee / Manny Crisostomo

Berman Obaldia, Western region vice president of the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States, said the bill shouldn't have focused only on the alcohol industry.
 "Our message is the fact that studies have shown that underage youth get access to alcohol through the family," Obaldia said. "That is what we need to be addressing."

More than 100 teenagers from throughout the state attended the hearing in support of the bill.

Many said they were disappointed in its defeat and didn't understand the committee's logic.

"I think it's ridiculous that it doesn't pass now," said Chris Duarte, 18, of Mariposa.

The bill's author, Assemblywoman Wilma Chan, D-Alameda, said the alcohol industry put up a good fight.

The pressure that lobbyists put on lawmakers was too tough to crack, Chan said. But she pledged to bring the bill back, possibly next year.

Large beer distributors such as Anheuser Busch, Miller and Coors would have faced fees based on an annual survey of youth alcohol consumption and brand use.

The bill would have generated $100 million the first year and up to $600 million thereafter for the new alcohol-recovery and prevention programs.

Assemblyman Dario Frommer, D-Los Angeles, chairman of the Health Committee, said he could not support the bill during such tough financial times.

Before the hearing, the teenagers rallied outside on the Capitol steps. They chanted in support of the bill and tied black ribbons around their arms in memory of Casey Goodwin.

Casey Goodwin was killed in March near Kettleman City while driving home from college to celebrate her mother's birthday. She had organized sober-graduation programs at Exeter Union High School and was an active member of a program that encourages teens not to drink and drive.

Her 16-year-old brother, Kyle Goodwin, was killed earlier this month after losing control of his vehicle on a mountain road.

On Tuesday, Lynne Goodwin wore two black bands on her arm, one for each dead child. Together with Casey's father, Reed, and their two other children, she decided Tuesday morning to make the trip to Sacramento.

"We're only here because Kyle would have wanted us to be here for Casey," the mother said.

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