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Friday, November 6, 2009

Booze Politics News and Thoughts

I've got a bunch of booze politics things that came in this week; rather than put up a bunch of posts, I'll just address all of it here. It kind of hangs together.

First, the Commonwealth Foundation study about how Pennsylvania's liquor "control" system does nothing to make the state safer from alcohol abuse, drunk driving, or underage drinking (like I didn't know that already?!) has been all over the state newspapers. I got my comments here, on the PLCB blog, go read. Meanwhile, Virginia's governor-elect, Bob McDonnell, made privatizing Virginia's ABC stores (the state sells liquor; wine and beer are in private stores) part of his campaign platform, stressing the windfall. Maybe he should have talked more about how stupid and backwards it makes the state look, and what a pain in the butt it is? And North Carolina's legislature is considering an internal report that found the state's ABC store system is outdated and needs to change. I tell you: it's time to push, and push hard.

Second, the real problem with the PLCB is The Almighty Liquor Code, which needs a total re-write. That's exactly what Frank Cagle is calling for in Tennessee in his latest "Frank Talk" column in the Knoxville weekly Metro Pulse. Tennessee's liquor code, says Cagle, is too broke to fix. "Sometimes a thing has been patched so many times it’s better to throw it out and start over." One look at The Almighty Liquor Code will convince you that it's time to throw it out. The twisted, tangled lawyerese that it is written in damns it to constant tinkering. The PA Liquor Code should be scrapped, and rewritten, in simple language, with consumer oversight, as a model of simple common sense in alcohol policy. First thing to go? All such Repeal-era language as this, the opening justification for the Code:

for the protection of the public welfare, health, peace and morals of the people of the Commonwealth and to prohibit forever the open saloon, and all of the provisions of this act shall be liberally construed for the accomplishment of this purpose.
Are you kidding me? In the trash with it, and we need never soil our minds with it again. An alcohol code should establish taxes -- of a reasonable level, based on pure alcohol content, not whether its wine, beer, or spirits -- a licensing facility for producers, importers, wholesalers, and retailers that benefits the state, not lawyers or speculators; provide rules for operation that are not based on moral or religious grounds, punishments for breaking those rules, and an enforcement procedure for dealing with this in a prompt manner; and puts the Commonwealth out of the booze business completely. Sheesh. How hard can it be?

In the New Dry section, there's this revamped informational site. It shows just the kind of inertial, pie-in-the-sky policy-driven stuff drinkers are up against; specifically, the continuing march of keg registration laws, after even the New Drys have admitted that they don't actually work. I'll say it again, for Google: Keg registration laws don't work, and PIRE confirms it. Why do 31 states have them? The same reason we got national Prohibition: someone thought it was a good idea, and would work, if only we had the whole county/state/country under control. Sorry. Turns out this one's wrong, too.

Finally, when 0.08 BAC laws were slammed through during the Clinton Administration, we were told that MADD -- the major supporter of the laws -- didn't want to go further than that, that they were not a prohibitionist group. True colors, folks: MADD Canada is recommending 0.05 BAC in Quebec. When do they stop?

So. Good, bad, interesting. That's the booze policy news this week.


Anonymous said...

Yeah, thanks Clinton.
As for the rest, assholes at heart, but trial lawyers in disguise.

Chibe said...

The big story for me this past week was Bloomberg banning any and all flavored tobacco in New York City on the grounds that it appeals to children. I'm sure most non-smokers didn't give it much thought (and I myself have never used tobacco) but the specious reasoning involved is chilling. Considering that certain states have banned beers such as "Santa's Butt" for allegedly appealing to children, how long will it be until New Glarus's Raspberry Tart is banned somewhere, for the kid's sake?

ilona@israel said...

"for the protection of the public welfare, health, peace and morals of the people
of the Commonwealth and to prohibit forever the open saloon, and all of the
provisions of this act shall be liberally construed for the accomplishment of
this purpose."

I hope that words can become actions.

Chris P said...

I agree they are in need of a serious re-write. Why take common wealth out of the picture that is not the problem bad polotics is what has tainted the system. Commonwealth gives us all equall standing. There is no problem with that. I live in a dram shop state and I agree with most of the laws in regards to the sale or purchase of alcohol I personally think that "moral" or judgement is part of the first step of resonable efforts. Yeah people should have a social obligation and some sort of responsibility associated with the sale and serivice of alcohol. I am a tips trainer in Tennessee. I train people on how to properly serve and sale alcohol responsibly. Unfortunatly it is not taken as serious as it should be. When people stop caring about third party liabilty and how there decisions affects others then there is a serious issue. Yes if they are under 21 Don't serve. If they are visibly they should get aonther drink..and no you shouldn't serve someone till they cant stand up or hold there head up. The majority think well they should have had self controll. Hello guess what so should the server. I am not involved in any other associations such as "MADD" ect.. and thankfull have never had to suffer any loss due to an alcohol related incedent. However there are plenty of stories. As stated on the website "Alcohol causes more than 2 million deaths Anually; Many preventable" Listen I have bartened around the world literaly I used to work for a cruise line. The service of alcohol is a luxury and it has provided me a living. I simply do not think it should be taken lightly and we as a people equally should be accountable and aware take action when one drink becomes to many."Put common wealth out of the booze business" Isn't that what this country is founded on? Aren't those the basic governing nomenclatures of a domocracy?

Lew Bryson said...


I agree with your points about the responsibility of the server, and was just talking to a friend about that the other day. I'll probably be writing something about that: I think it's the key to a lot of problems. The sticking point is making it easier for the server to do that very important job.

But "Commonwealth" is a particular reference to the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, not the general concept. We here in PA call it "the Commonwealth" fairly often; it's just a somewhat archaic term that we use instead of "state." Not sure why, but the state government always refers to it as the Commonwealth, so... I'd like to see the state-owned monopoly in Pennsylvania out of the booze business. Better?

Thanks for stopping in!

chris said...

OK Lew,
I appoligize for my ignorance as you're reference to Pennsylvania. It makes more since to me now. I am not familiar with Pennsylvania state laws as well as I am with others. I mainly stayed along the coast and warmer climates! However I did work in North Carolina for a bit as well...and Geez your right about outdated! I am just glad that the Carolina's are not still using airplane bottles. As for for making the state monopoly I can see that being a problem. There call for controll should not be to make them wealthy of taxing and abusing the democracy. The "Common wealth" of Pennsylvania needs to remember what common wealth actually stands for and stop politicaly underming there people! Well I just got wind a few month ago in my trainer Newsletter that the TABC proposed a complete rewrite of the ABC code. And it is being reviewed by the State Attorney General and should be implemented by March of next year. Although a date has not been set. I am ambitious to see exactly what has been proposed and how it will change Tennessee for the better. They have pushed this all through so fast. Moreover I can't believe the recent legislation allow patrons to carry handguns into bars! Have you touched on this does your state allow this? I was appalled.

Lew Bryson said...

You know, Chris, I don't know what PA's concealed carry law says about bars and restaurants! I suspect, this being a state that is largely in the pocket of the NRA, that it's legal and always has been. PA is a very gun-friendly state, always has been.