Teen drinking is focus of keg registration bill House panel views liquor measures STATE HOUSE REPORT


Keg parties are the target of a proposal aimed at curbing teen-age drinking.

Parents of teen-agers, the Governor's Commission on Alcohol and Drug Abuse, and police officials testified yesterday in favor of legislation that would require the registration of beer kegs.

The bill would make adults who purchase beer for underage drinkers accountable by enabling police to track down the person who bought the keg, proponents say. Currently, they say, kegs are untraceable.

The proposal, one of 37 liquor-related bills considered by the House Economic Matters Committee during a five-hour hearing, met strong opposition from the liquor industry, which argued the measure was unnecessary and burdensome.

The bill would require someone purchasing a keg to fill out a registration tag with his name and address, and the address where the keg is to be used. The tag would be attached to the keg, and the liquor store would keep a copy.

"This is a responsibility bill," said George L. Layman, director the Montgomery County chapter of Mothers Against Drunk Driving. "We're asking the committee put the responsibility on the person who supplies the keg to these underage drinkers."

Delegate Joan Pitkin, a Prince George's Democrat and co-sponsor of the bill, cited a University of Maryland study that showed underage drinking is at an all-time high. She added that similar legislation has already been adopted in 10 other states, including Virginia.

Pat Fenati, a Montgomery County mother, said both her teen-age sons have had serious alcohol-related problems because access was too easy, particularly during large keg parties.

"I'm tired of drinking and getting drunk being treated as a rite of passage," said Ms. Fenati.

Del. Richard La Vay, a Montgomery County Republican and committee member, expressed skepticism about how effective the proposal will be. "This is not going to solve the problem because kids are going to find a way around it," he said. "What's stopping them from buying it by the case instead?"

Jay Schwartz, a lobbyist with the Maryland Licensed Beverage Dealers Association, agreed. He noted that beer balls, or party balls, would not be affected by the bill because they contain less than 4 gallons of beer.

He also said people could tear off the registration tag and claim that it fell off in transit.

Lawmakers also heard proposals yesterday that would allow bowling alleys in Baltimore County to acquire liquor licenses from taverns and restaurants, and allow Charles County to conduct criminal background checks on applicants for liquor licenses.

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