A drinking age bill was revived by a Virginia House panel approved a controversial bill that would exempt church-operated daycare centers from a number of state health and safety regulations.
Over the strenuous objections of its chairman -- who tried twice before and again twice today to kill the legislation -- the House General Laws Committee narrowly approved a bill that would prohibit 18-year-olds from buying beer unless they plan to drink it at the place of purchase.
The measure would allow persons 19 or over to buy beer at liquor stores, but 13-year-olds could only buy beer in supervised drinking establishments such as restaurants and bars.
The bill's chief sponsor, Del. Warren E. Barry (R-Fairfax), originally sought to prohibit beer sales to all 18-year-olds but agreed to the on-premises drinking restriction during a heated discussion of the bill on the House floor earlier this week.
The committee chairman, Del. Thomas W. Moss Jr. (D-Norfolk), first said he would agree to the amended bill if his committee could study it. Other legislators predicted -- correctly, it turned out -- that Moss was trying to gain control of the measure again so he could kill it.
"I know I said the amendment was acceptable to me," said Moss, grinning while others laughed, "but upon further knowledge and enlightenment, I no longer feel that way."
Committee members voted 9 to 6, then 10 to 9 today for the beer drinking restrictions. Northern Virginian Dels. Barry and Elise Heinz (D-Arling-Ton) voted for the measure, and Del. Raymond Vickery (D-Fairfax) opposed it.
The church-run daycare bill, approved by the House Health, Welfare and Institutions Committee in a 12-to-6 vote, is expected to provoke another debate on the House floor over the separation of church and state versus the need to protect the health and safety of children.
Del. C. Richard Cranwell (D-Roanoke County) said the compromise bill would exempt church-operated daycre centers from interference by the state welfare agency but still require inspections by local fire and health officials. The compromise was approved after an earlier exemption bill failed to win committee support.
Del. Warren Stambaugh (D-Arlington) argued, however, that the state "has the right to regulate the practice of your belief, particularly if it affects children. This bill says you are above the law if you're doing something because of your belief."
In other action, another House committee has killed a bill that would have set up a public financing campaign funds for statewide candidates, but the committee is expected to study the issue for possible reconsideration next session.