State Assemblyman Jerry Hill held a news conference in San Francisco Monday morning to highlight his proposed legislation that would add restrictions on “party buses” that allow alcohol and provide rides to nightclubs.
Hill, D-San Mateo, held the news conference on San Francisco’s Polk Street, one of the neighborhoods that is a party bus destination.
The buses “are essentially booze cruises, a party on wheels,” Hill said.
He said his legislation, Assembly Bill 45, would close a loophole in current state law that exempts the bus drivers from rules that apply to limousine drivers, including having to verify that all people on board are of the legal drinking age of 21.
Under the bill, if minors are on board, a party bus company would require the designation of a chaperone at least 25 years old who would be responsible for notifying the driver if underage passengers are drinking, Hill said.
“The regulations were put in place for limos in the 1980s, when party buses didn’t exist,” Hill said. “The industry has expanded and the law hasn’t kept up with the times.”
The legislation is set to go before the state Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday, Hill said.
The assemblyman was joined by the parents of Brett Studebaker, a 19-year-old who was killed on Feb. 6, 2010, when he crashed his car on U.S. Highway 101 near San Mateo after his friend’s birthday celebration aboard a party bus. Hill’s legislation is named after Studebaker.
“Party buses can be deadly for our kids,” said Linda Studebaker, Brett’s mother.
She said Brett had been dropped off at his car by the party bus and had a blood-alcohol content roughly three times the legal limit.
“He was a crash that was going to happen,” she said. “He was seriously inebriated and left to fend for himself.”
David Villa-Lobos, executive director of the Community Leadership Alliance, a neighborhood group based in San Francisco’s Polk Street corridor, said the party buses have affected the neighborhood.
“We’re trying to revitalize the Polk corridor and it’s counterproductive to that,” Villa-Lobos said. “There’s a lot of issues with crowd and noise control because of the party buses.”
Hill said his office has had “great success” in working with the party bus companies on his legislation.
“They’ve been looking at this as a problem they want to solve as well,” he said.
If passed by the Senate committee Tuesday, the bill would likely would go before the full Senate sometime in August, Hill said.
Dan McMenamin, Bay City News