The Virginia House of Delegates gave final approval today to legislation that will raise the state's beer-drinking age to 19, despite pleas by some Republicans that the House should reject the compromise approved last week by Democratic Gov. Charles S. Robb.
By a 67-to-32 vote the House rebuffed GOP pleas that it insist on raising the age to 21 and sent the bill to Robb. The governor last week abandoned his insistence that the legislature raise the age to 21 and agreed to a compromise whichthat sailed through the Senate Tuesday.
That compromise displeased some House members who had voted last month to raise the age to 21. Del. C. Jefferson Stafford (R-Giles) urged the House to reject the Senate version and seek another solution. "I was not privy to that compromise," Stafford said. "I don't think this bill accomplishes what we set out to do. Let the Senate go to conference with us."
Stafford was joined by House Minority Leader Vincent F. Callahan Jr. (R-Fairfax), who argued that raising the beer-drinking age in restaurants from 18 to 19 would not solve the problem of teen-age alcohol abuse. In addition, Callahan said, passage of the bill could harm chances of a minimum age 21 proposal some lawmakers said they would seek next year.
"The problem is not kids going to taverns and drinking, it's kids buying beer in 7-Elevens," Callahan said. The new law, he added, would probably be as ineffective as "those military lectures on certain social diseases and how we should refrain from certain practices."
Others rejected contentions that the bill was "window dressing" and argued that it would prevent high school students from getting beer. "Probably no one is closer to the teen-age years than I am," said freshman Del G. Steven Agee, a 30-year-old Republican from Roanoke who urged his colleagues to "put politics behind us and vote for this bill . . . . This is the bill that should have passed in the first place."
Seven members of the Northern Virginia delegation voted against the bill. They were Callahan, and Fairfax Republican Dels. James H. Dillard, Robert T. Andrews, Stephen J. Gordy, Robert E. Harris and Loudoun Republican Kenneth B. Rollins. David G. Brickley (D-Prince William) was the only Northern Virginia Democrat who opposed the bill.