RALEIGH — Alcohol sales reform is once again a topic of discussion for state lawmakers in Raleigh as House Bill 971 makes its way through the legislative process; it’s a dramatic bill that would completely rework the way the state deals with alcohol sales and “modernize” the system.
Representative Chuck McGrady is the main sponsor of the bill titled An Act To Modernize The Licensure Model Utilized By The State For The Sale Of Spirituous Liquor which was first filed in April.
“The bipartisan bill replaces the state’s total monopoly on the sale of liquor with a system of permitting and taxation that’s modeled on the way wine and beer are sold. “We’ve already proved that there is a sensible path forward in replacing this inefficient state monopoly with a licensure model that already works for beer and wine,” McGrady said in a press release. “We can ensure public safety and streamline operations — all while enabling private sector investment and increasing revenue to local communities, for important priorities like education.”
Some support, some resistance
In May, the New Hanover County Commissioners were presented with a resolution that would show local support to maintain the current ABC system — while it did pass, it only did so with a 3-2 vote.
Commissioner Woody White was one of the dissenting votes saying that the topic belongs at the state level — not local.
“Commissioner White further stated that he supports, and always has, the local board and the wonderful people there. He considers people on that board his personal friends. Just as a matter of philosophy, he does do not believe that the status quo for this state is the right policy … This is a state issue and it needs to stay in Raleigh and deliberated by the legislators as represented. It does not belong in front of this Board,” according to meeting minutes.
CEO of New Hanover County ABC Marnina Queen addressed the board and presented them with reasons to support the bill including the ability to limit alcohol consumption, underage drinking, and crime — but not everyone agreed this was true.
“Regarding, when the law was passed in 1937, it was four years after prohibition. The country had just undergone an 11-year period of time that was really unparalleled in our country’s history. While alcohol was outlawed and illegal, nationwide alcohol consumption increased, crime increased. The anecdotes in the studies that we see conflict when we say, if we privatize and deregulate, crime and consumption increase. That’s not necessarily true. History proves that to be false in many instances,” White said.
It’s not just local leaders who think this way — according to a poll conducted by Port City Daily that had 792 votes — only 11% of respondents support keeping the ABC system.
The overwhelming majority, 84% said the state should not control alcohol sales — 5% of respondents were apathetic.
Representative Deb Butler, however, thinks the system in place works and shouldn’t be changed.
“Our alcohol sales operation yields over five and a half million dollars of revenue that is used in large part for the betterment of our schools. Our stores are clean, well-lit and professionally run. I see no reason to give away a county asset that is well functioning and providing a huge revenue stream for our benefit. We have all visited places outside NC that don’t do a good job of managing alcohol sales and I don’t want that for our County. Let’s not fix something that isn’t in any way broken,” Deb Butler said.
Like any bill at the state level, it has to go through several different phases before becoming law (or being voted against), and will likely have changes to the language before a final draft is voted upon.
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