Alcohol Regulation Roundup: February 9, 2011

Connecticut: Two days after Super Bowl Sunday, Connecticut lawmakers held a hearing on one of the most contentious issues this session: whether consumers can buy beer and wine on Sundays at package stores. Convenience and grocery store owners support the measure, but the hearing had a “small army of package store owners” who claim, allowing Sunday sales and forcing them to stay open 7 days a week will cost revenue and jobs. But grocery stores, lawmakers, and consumers in the state see things differently. They want the customers, tax revenue, and convenience that Sunday sales will bring the state. Connecticut is one of 14 states that still prohibit hard liquor sales on Sunday and one of only three states that still disallow Sunday sales of beer. However, the other two states, Georgia and Indiana, are considering repealing their ban on Sunday sales as well.

While lawmakers have been unsuccessful in the past to repeal the state’s ban on Sunday liquor sales, this year their chances are better due to new Governor Dan Malloy, who has publicly stated that he would sign the repeal bill if it landed on his desk. Malloy previously called legalizing Sunday sales “a no brainer.”

Georgia: As mentioned above, this week Georgia lawmakers are considering repealing the state-wide ban on Sunday sales. Just today, the House Regulated Industries Committee gave its unanimous approval for the bill which would allow localities to attach referendums to election ballots on Sunday alcohol sales. A Senate committee already approved the measure and a similar billed passed the Senate State and Local Government Operations Committee. While a full Senate vote on the matter is a near certainty it is unlikely, they’ll allow this to be the first bill passed in the session.

Indiana: Last week Indiana lawmakers in the House passed a bill that would repeal current state law requiring store clerks to card customers regardless of their apparent age. If it passes in the Senate, HB 1325 will let clerks bypass carding customers who appear older than 40.

Alaska: Voters in Anchorage will get the chance this April to say whether or not they want a universal ID check in every liquor store. If the universal ID ban is voted down by citizens, it will be up to lawmakers to pass a bill allowing clerks to bypass carding certain types of customers.

Kansas: The Coalition for Jobs and Consumer Choice is pushing SB 54 in the Kansas state Senate, which would allow grocery and convenience stores to sell full-strength alcoholic beverages that are currently only available at one of the state’s 766 liquor stores (3.2 beer is available). Proponents say the change will net an increase of 15,367 jobs, $343.6 million in wages, and $72.5 million in tax revenue. Opponents of the change, of course, dispute those numbers.

Maryland: This article details the unintended consequence of disallowing direct shipping of wine in Maryland. Many wine aficionados who live in Maryland either work or have friends in Virginia or D.C. — which, unlike Maryland, allow wine shipping. As a result, Maryland residents are routinely breaking state law by having their wine shipped to these other locations and then driving the cases home-a misdemeanor offense that carries a fine of up to $10,000 and prison sentence of up to five years. Maryland is one of 13 states that prohibits wine shipping.