State Law Roundup: Sampling Legislation from Across the Nation

Lawmakers across the nation continue to squabble over proposed alcohol laws. Many of the debates revolve around where and when to sell it, and for what price.

A legislative committee in Connecticut killed a bill that would allow retailers to discount liquor. Retailers are currently required to adhere to a price list issued by wholesalers. Governor Dannel Malloy viewed the change as a way to stimulate tax revenue by stimulating sales, but the mom-and-pop stores lined up against it, fearing unfair competition from the big guys. The story isn’t over. There are hints that Malloy will incorporate the provisions into a separate bill that’s still up for hearing.

In Missouri, the discount debate extends to telling consumers about the lower prices. Two bills – one from each legislative house – would permit advertising discounted prices in print and broadcast media, which is currently illegal. Small retailers fear they would be outspent by larger operations. The Missouri Times editorialized that advertising alcohol would be harmful to minors.

A pending federal lawsuit could disrupt price and advertising policies in both states. Total Wine & More, which has four stores in Connecticut, is suing the state, claiming its liquor price regulation is a Sherman Act violation. The same Missouri Times editorial referenced above says Show-Me State lawmakers introduced their bill in anticipation of fallout from the Connecticut lawsuit.

Pennsylvania’s Liquor Control Board told lawmakers this week that wine sales in grocery stores may be cutting into the revenue of state-run liquor stores. The state has issued 381 permits since grocers were authorized to sell wine. State stores located near grocers with the highest wine volume underperformed the liquor board’s projections by about 1.8 percent in 2016.

A grocery store wine bill is bouncing around in Arkansas. The bill would lift restrictions for grocers who stock wine. Currently, they’re required to carry only wine from small wineries. Liquor stores, which carry larger selections, oppose expanding the selection in grocery stores. The bill failed in the Arkansas House, but was resurrected and passed two days later. It reportedly awaits amendments in the Senate.

Michigan has established a “specially-designated merchant license” allowing in-state retailers to ship wine to Michigan residents. Out-of-state retailers need not apply. Lebamoff Enterprises, an Indiana liquor retailer with 15 stores has filed suit in Federal Court ahead of the law’s effective date, claiming Privileges and Immunities and Commerce Clause violations.

Observers say Michigan’s show of favoritism raises the same issues that were settled by the U. S. Supreme Court’s 2005 direct shipping decision in Granholm v. Heald. The court said in Granholm that states allowing direct-to-consumer shipping by in-state wineries must extend the same privilege to out-of-state wineries.

Illinois lawmakers are considering whether to allow minors to order beer and wine in restaurants, so long as the parents are present. The Jacksonville Journal Courier opines that more permissive alcohol laws lead to more alcohol abuse by youngsters. It’s already legal in Illinois for parents to supervise underage consumption at home.

Minnesota will end its ban on Sunday liquor store sales, effective July 2, after its governor signed a bill that gives cities discretion to maintain Sunday closures locally. Another bid to allow Sunday sales has been proposed by an Oklahoma state senator. This follows voter approval of an Oklahoma ballot initiative last fall that allows beer and wine in grocery and convenience stores.


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