By Peter Rubin, Volume 18
March 21, 1979
On Thursday, February 15, Massachusetts High School students got involved in the dispute over raising the drinking age.
The State Student Advisory Council (SSAC) held a press conference at the offices of the State Department of Education to announce the position of the council with regards to the pending drinking age legislation. Below are their five main reasons opposing the raising of the drinking age.
-18 year olds should be entitled to the every legal right and privilege of all other citizens
-Raising the drinking age will be difficult to enforce and will prove to be ineffective as prohibition
-This legislation is an overly simplistic approach to the complex problem of youth alcohol abuse. The solution to the problem is increase guidance and counseling in the area of alcohol abuse. Banning alcohol will not eliminate alcohol abuse.
-Making liquor more difficult to obtain will merely force youth to use more dangerous drugs. It has been documented that when the drinking the dirnking age is lowered, the drug abuse among youths is also lowered.
-This legislation could lead to a loss of jobs and revenue in Massachusetts. Consumers in the age bracket of 18-21 will frequent businesses and purchase goods in the staets bordering Massachusetss. It is ironic that an economically minded governor would advocate a policy that would drive business out of Massachusetts and into states such as New Hampshire.
The decision to hold the press conference came in the wake of the House of Representatives pas sage of a bill to gradually raise the drinking age to 21.
Many of the members of SSAC felt that while the college students opposing this legislation were unorganized, the existing machinery of the Student Advisory Council might be effective in lobbying against the raising of the drinking age.
After the press conference, Azzarito answered some questions for the television crews, and the Council proceeded with its regular business, until word was received that the drinking age bill which had been expected to be referred from the Senate floor to the Ways and Means Committee for debate, a process which usually took at least a day, had completed the circuit in, as Azzarito put it, “about fifteen minutes,” and was back on the Senate Floor for final debate and passage.
The meeting was adjourned early, and about half of the forty-odd members present trekked to the State House to lobby against the House. Wearing Student Advisory Council buttons, the council members, from as far away as Sutton, Mass. and as near as Newton South, were met by a Northeastern University student, a representative from M.I.C.A (the college student group opposing the raising of the drinking age).
The representatives of the SSAC went into the State House where they were met by more television cameras. The Senate was in session, the tiny spectators’ galleries filled.
A paper outlining the five reasons for not supporting the bill were distributed to the offices of all State Legislators.
At the bottom it read, “This is a position of the SSAC. It represents the opinion of 500,000 high school students in the Commonwealth.”
While many could not stay, some of the SSAC members waited in line for two hours to get into the spectators gallery for a look at the action on the Senate floor where the debate was going on.
In the end, after each house of the Legislature had passed a different version, a conference committee made up of thee members of each house of the Legislature decided on a twenty year-old drinking compromise.
Last Tuesday, Governor King announced that the change would take effect on April 16. Despite the efforts of Massachusetts students, King has kept his campaign promise to raise the drinking age.