Controversy over a bill to raise Maryland's legal drinking age to 21 was revived tonight when the State Senate agreed to let a Western Maryland senator press to have the issue reopened.
The senator, Victor Cushwa (D-Washington County), said he voted last week for the bill to raise the drinking age for beer and light wine from 18 to 21. But Cushwa said he decided to change his vote and support raising the age to 19, after meeting with constituents over the weekend.
Cushwa said that in Western Maryland, some residents were concerned about 18- to 21-year-olds driving into nearby West Virginia to drink. The legal drinking age there is 18.
"I talked to one hell of a lot of people over the weekend," Cushwa said. He added that he would be willing to talk to Gov. Harry Hughes, a strong backer of 21, to see if the governor could change his (Cushwa's) mind back to supporting 21.
By a 22-to-21 vote, the senators agreed that on Tuesday, Cushwa can have his reconsideration vote.
Supporters of the bill to raise the age to 21 said tonight they still have enough votes to pass the measure and defeat any attempts to change the age to 19, even with Cushwa's switch. "I feel fairly confident that we have 24 votes," said Sen. Rosalie Abrams (D-Baltimore), the majority leader. Twenty-four votes is the minimum number needed to pass a bill in the Senate.