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Hynes Advocates Tougher Laws For Party Hosts

Private party hosts will be held more accountable for providing drinks to minors if Rep. Frank Hynes (D-Marshfield) has his way when Massachusetts state legislators reconvene next year.

"If you are pronouncing by law that you can't drink... [private party hosts] should not be compliant in serving underage people," Hynes said.

Hynes' new bill would make private party hosts as responsible for serving alcohol to minors as bar and liquor store owners are now.

Hynes said that while the bill is not primarily aimed at college dorms, hosts of dorm parties would be covered by this bill.

The bill's message is that regardless of the setting, "we should have zero tolerance for underage drinking," Hynes said.

The bill states that the host of a party has to take some "affirmative action" to ensure that minors do not drink.

Hynes said the bill is intentionally vague as to what such an "affirmative action" might be.

Hynes said he would consider posting signs declaring that the legal age to drink is 21 or having a "gatekeeper" who would be in charge of serving alcohol as "affirmative actions."

Under the current law someone can be prosecuted only if he or she directly hands an alcoholic beverage to a minor.

Hynes said the impetus for this bill was the death of ,Gregory Smith, a constituent who died in a traffic accident while driving drunk.

Smith was on his way home from a graduation party held by the parents of a friend.

Smith's father, Donald Smith, lost a lawsuit he filed against the hosts of the party after the judge instructed the jury that under current law the hosts were only responsible if they directly gave alcohol to Gregory.

The judge said the hosts were not responsible if they were merely lax in preventing him from drinking at the party.

Some legislators expressed concerns about possible consequences of the bill.

A staff member from Senate Chair Michael Morrisey's (D-Quincy) office said that while the senator is undecided as to whether or not to support the bill, he has expressed concern that the bill will raise homeowners' insurance premiums.

There has also been concern that the bill infringes on the privacy of the home, Hynes said.

In defense of the bill, Hynes said he does not think that homeowner's insurance would rise significantly and that "it is legal and would remain legal [under the bill] for a father to give his son a beer in a family setting.

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