Lowering the Boom


How much clout can Gov. Edward J. King muster to raise the drinking age to 21? Next week will tell.

The House of Representatives and the State Senate each decided this week how high to raise the drinking age--but they didn't decide on the same age.

The House voted Monday to raise the drinking age to 19 and the age for purchase of packaged liquor to 21. It nullified that vote Wednesday when it decided to phase in the drinking age to 21 over a two-year period for all alcohol consumption.

The Senate decided to raise the drinking age to 19 Thursday after a parliamentary maneuver by the Senate Ways and Means Committee prevented a vote on the House bill.

State Sen. David H. Locke, a supporter of a 21-year drinking age, accused State Sen. Chester G. Atkins, chairman of the Ways and Means Committee of cheating the senators of a chance to pass the more stringent bill. He said the Ways and Means maneuver made the other senators no more effective than "giggling eunuchs."


The Senate will reconsider the 19-year bill Tuesday but it is expected to pass easily.

The bill will then go before the House, which will probably reject it, State Rep. Robert B. Ambler, who led the debate for the 21-year-old measure in the House, says. In that case, the House and Senate versions will go before a joint conference committee to hammer out a compromise. Both branches must approve any compromise.

The two likeliest compromises are a 20-year drinking age for all liquor consumption or a 19-year legal age in bars and a phased-in 21-year age for purchasing packaged alcohol, State Rep. Barney Frank '62 says.

But State Rep. John A. Businger says he will argue Tuesday for the House to agree with the Senate bill. "We have the power to break the deadlock," he says, adding that the House voted for a 19-year drinking age last year.

If the House does concur, the bill could be presented to the governor by the end of next week, Businger says.

Hundreds of Boston-area students have been lobbying this week for a hike of only one year in the drinking age. Some of their organizers blame the House vote on Tuesday to raise the drinking age gradually to 21 in part on the students' lower turnout that day than on Monday. About 700 young people lobbied in the Senate Thursday.

Students say they will continue to lobby next week when the House considers the Senate bill and if the bill goes into conference committee.