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Alcohol Regulation Roundup: Longest Day Edition

Happy summer solstice everyone (it was yesterday, but this is the first full day of summer)! Wherever you are, I hope you're enjoying the maximum hours of sunshine with a cold frosty one (or whatever your beverage of choice is).

National: Plans to increase revenue for the cash-strapped postal service may include allowing the carriers to ship beer and wine directly to peoples’ houses! As a side benefit, perhaps the ability for the USPS to ship alcohol and require checking the I.D. of the recipients will dispel the myth that other carriers like FedEx or UPS would not be responsible enough to ship alcohol directly.

California: Egged on by Alcohol Justice, the group formerly known as the Marin Institute, Marin County passed a resolution declaring itself an “alcopop-free zone.” The resolution asks local businesses to voluntarily cease the purchasing, promotion, and sale of sweetened malt alcohol beverages.

Colorado: Despite passing unanimously in a House committee a few weeks ago, a bill that would have let Breckenridge Brewery to expand its production in the Denver area without having to close some of its brewpubs died without so much as a debate on the House floor. Colorado caps production at 60,000 barrels a year for breweries that operate brewpubs on-site. As a result Breckenridge is reportedly planning to build it's new brewery on the east coast. While this is bad for those Rocky Mountaineers who enjoy Breckenridge brew, or simple the increase in jobs and tax revenue a new brewery would have brought, it's good news for us fans in the east. Thanks Colorado lawmakers!

Connecticut Sunday liquor sales officially become legal in the state after Governor Malloy signed a bill doing away with the prohibition-era ban.

Kansas: Customers at wine tasting festivals may now purchase those wines at the festival instead of having to drive to the winery or vineyard. The change comes after Governor Sam Brownback signed a range of bills modifying the states alcohol laws.

New York: Lawmakers in New York have agreed to give small brewers in the Empire state a tax credit to make up for the loss of a tax break. The Production Credit would give 14 cents per gallon of beer produced in New York for the first 6.2 million gallons produced in the taxable year. This is meant to offset, to the penny, the increased excise taxes that in-state brewers were forced to pay after the court decided that only applying the tax to out-of-state brewers was discrimination in violation of interstate commerce clause.  The easier solution would have been to simply eliminate the tax on out-of-state brewers, but of course then they would miss out on tax revenue.

Ohio: Ohio’s little regulatory change has big results: after changing the state’s alcohol laws so that microbreweries, brew pubs and craft distilleries can offer samples at tasting rooms and sell directly to the public, the Ohio Department of Commerce says that three new businesses plan to open and take advantage of the new laws and at least 8 small brewers under development have applied for “a license to taste”.

Pennsylvania: House Majority Leader Michael Turzai, the champion of alcohol privatization in Pennsylvania, announced today that his proposal won't get a hearing until fall at the earliest. While it's sad to see the momentum from Washington State's success fade away perhaps this is for the best. As I wrote in a longer post last week, the proposal under discussion was a poor excuse for "privatization." Perhaps they will come back in the fall with a plan to actually create a free market for alcohol sales in the Keystone State.

Also in Penn., the House of Representatives is expected to take up House Bill 2429, which would allow craft breweries to sell beer farmers' markets and craft beer and food expositions  (wine can already be sold at farmers markets in the state).

Tennessee: A law that requires liquor store owners to be Tennessee residents is not legal, according to Attorney General Bob Cooper. The law, which is meant to protect the market for Tennessee whiskey violates the commerce clause of the U.S. Constitution. A bill to repeal the requirement is expected next year.

Texas: Texas continues its trend toward a freer market for alcohol: last month voter passed all 13 of the ballot initiatives to allow or extend alcohol sales in 11 dry or “damp” cities.

Utah: more liquor licenses for restaurants on tap for special session

Virginia: Governor McDonnell signed two bills supporting craft brewing in Virginia. House Bill 359 lets manufacturers lease space to smaller-scale brewers -- a huge benefit for microbrewers unable to invest the big bucks for their own brewery. He also signed Senate Bill 604 which allows brewers in the commonwealth to sell and sample beer at the brewery. Cheers, Virginia!

Washington: The State Supreme Court upheld the ballot initiative that privatized the states alcohol sales. Other states watch carefully and may follow in Washington’s footsteps. Hopefully, if other states like Pennsylvania and Virginia decide to privatize they will skip the high fees and taxes that have resulted in Washington State liquor prices not dropping post-privatization.