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Drunk Driving Victims Celebrate Defeat Of “Happy Hour” Amendment

By Karen Anderson, WBZ-TV
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Erin Brenton and Girls On The Go mobilized stop the effort that could have repealed the current Happy Hour Law.

Erin Brenton and Girls On The Go mobilized stop the effort that could have repealed the current Happy Hour Law.

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WEYMOUTH (CBS) – A group of South Shore women is celebrating a victory tonight.

The walking and running group, Girls on the Go, mobilized behind its founder, Erin Brenton, to stop the effort that could have repealed the current Happy Hour Law. Erin says she is excited, “Victims of drunk driving do have a voice. We were relentless. We will not stop.”

Erin is picking up the fight started by her father, Charles Woods, in the 1980s, after Erin and her sister Heather were run down by a drunk driver. Erin suffered severe leg injuries and trauma to her head; Heather was killed. Charles says, “She was cheated of her life.” He dedicated himself to raise the drinking age and create Happy Hour restrictions.

WBZ-TV’s Karen Anderson reports

When Senator Hedlund (R-Weymouth) filed the amendment the day the Senate passed the “Casino Bill,” Erin was stunned and began mobilizing her group. Erin says, “The laws are on the books and they’re going to stay there. I’m not going to let one man’s political agenda erase what my father did.”

They sent dozens of emails to Senator Hedlund, and posted on his Facebook page.

Kenda Cluff, a member of Girls on the Go, says, “We have children, we have families that we want to just keep intact.”

Today, they saw results.

Senator Hedlund, Minority Leaders Bruce Tarr, (R-Gloucester), and Senator Timilty (D-Walpole), asked the conference committee reviewing the “Casino Bill” to change the amendment to instead order a review of the current laws regarding restaurants and alcohols.

Kathleen Arieta, with Girls on the Go, says, “Women as a whole can do a lot of things. They can really make a big impact on our community and our world.”

Nicole Romboldi, another member of Girls on the Go, says she is inspired by Erin and her father. “They’ve put a lot of effort towards making things right. And that’s important. And people who stand up and support others and really is what we need more of.”

Erin’s father Charles says he is amazed by the power of determined women, and is grateful for their support.

He says, “Her girls in her group are wonderful and they’re solidly behind her and that means alot to us, the old people from MADD it’s good to see the young peeple get together and not allow this to happen. “When he was working to change legislation in the 1980s, men were more involved as leaders.

Today he says, “Women have come full circle now and they have grabbed the bull by the horns and… God help ya.”

Senator Hedlund’s office released the following on the changes:

A group of legislative leaders have called on the six-member conference committee reviewing the “Casino Bill” to amend the Restaurant Protection Amendment that was included in the legislation. In its current form, the Restaurant Protection Amendment would change the laws governing alcoholic beverages in Massachusetts so that bars and restaurants could not be subject to stricter regulations than casinos.

Assistant Minority Leader Robert Hedlund (R-Weymouth), Minority Leader Bruce Tarr (R – Gloucester) and Chairman of the Joint Committee on Public Safety Jim Timilty (D-Walpole), all of whom supported the Restaurant Protection Amendment, have written to the conference committee to propose a compromise to the Amendment. The Amendment was passed overwhelmingly by the Senate during debate with a roll call vote of 25-13.

“It is obvious that the introduction of casinos in Massachusetts will dramatically alter the business landscape, especially concerning small businesses” said Senator Hedlund, “It is ironic that the State is granting special privileges to casinos so that they can compete with casinos in Connecticut, but has not considered the myriad of small businesses in this state that will then be at a competitive disadvantage to the casinos.”

The compromise proposal now being offered would call for the Alcohol Beverage Control Commission (ABCC) to review Massachusetts’ alcohol laws over the course of a year and suggest changes for the Legislature to implement that would help local bars and restaurants compete with casinos.

“I think this decision is in the best interest of what we are trying to accomplish here: fairness.” said Senator Timilty. “The casinos will undoubtedly have a tremendous impact on small businesses and we made an attempt to level the playing field with regard to alcohol service. While many may not agree with that, I think we can all agree that the Commonwealth is in desperate need of a thorough review of its archaic laws and regulations relative to alcohol.”

Under current law, a bar could legally offer tequila shots for 40¢ each as long as they offered the same deal for seven days in a row, while a restaurant would be prohibited from offering a discount off of locally brewed beers on certain days. Since 1984 when the ban on drink specials was enacted, several states have followed the Commonwealth’s lead on our strict drunk driving penalties, while only Utah has more restrictive rules on drink specials in restaurants.

“A thorough review of our current alcohol laws makes sense, not only to ensure that all businesses are on a level playing field, but also to identify and close any loopholes that would allow abuses of the system.” said Senator Tarr.

Anti-drunken driving advocate Ron Bersani, grandfather of Melanie Powell, said that he supports the current proposal.

“I fully support this effort to take a second look at alcohol laws governing restaurants and bars in anticipation of the changing landscape with the introduction of casinos in Massachusetts. I have all the faith in the ABCC top promulgate common sense regulations that balance public safety with a sound business environment.” said Bersani.

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