New England lawmakers eye new alcohol-related measures

BOSTON Lawmakers in two New England states are considering alcohol-related legislation that could affect restaurants’ beverage sales and server liability. The Massachusetts measure would lower the legal definition of intoxication to a blood alcohol level of .02 percent, from the current level of .08 percent. A proposal being eyed in Vermont would lower the state’s drinking age, in contradiction to a long-standing federal law that ties highway funds to a minimum drinking age of 21.

In Massachusetts, state Rep. James Fagan, D-Taunton, proposed the bill lowering the BAC level, which opponents say could put drivers in violation of the law if they consume only one beer or glass of wine. The state Legislature’s Joint Judiciary Committee held a hearing on the measure Tuesday, but made no decision on whether to advance the bill.

Meanwhile, Vermont lawmakers are examining the possibility of lowering the legal drinking age to 18 despite the threat of losing $17 million in highway funding. The minimum age was raised about 23 years ago to 21. State Sen. Hinda Miller, D-Chittenden, has introduced a bill that would establish a task force to weigh the pros and cons of lowering the minimum age, according to the Associated Press.

Miller stated that Vermont’s current law does not prohibit youngsters below age 21 from drinking, and some get into trouble because of they’re younger the minimum age.

“They get sick, they get scared and they get into trouble and they can’t call because they know it’s illegal,” she said.

Last year, New Hampshire rejected a measure to lower the drinking age of its active duty military personnel from 21 to 18.