Lawmakers in Texas, like N.C., feeling pressure to reform antiquated liquor distribution system

From Carolina Journal

The N.C. Alcoholic Beverage Control Commission is scheduled to meet 10 a.m. Wednesday, Jan. 16, to consider and adopt rules for spirits sold and consumed in North Carolina.

The N.C. ABC is seeing record profits, at the same time state some lawmakers are looking at moves to reform the arcane and monopolistic system. North Carolina is one of 17 control states in the country.

Even more open states, such as Texas, are feeling pressure to modernize their systems to promote competition and economic growth.

“Even though more than 80 years have passed since the end of Prohibition, Texas in many ways still regulates the beverage alcohol industry as if we are still living in the 1930s,’’Dale Szyndrowski, vice president of the Distilled Spirits Council, said in a news release. “While the Sunset Commission took some steps to bring Texas into the 21st century, we still have far to go.”

The Distilled Spirits Council, its website says, is the national trade association representing the leading producers and marketers of distilled spirits in the United States.

“The Texas Alcoholic Beverage Code is filled with outdated and often-contradictory provisions that serve no purpose than to restrict competition and protect entrenched special interests,’’ Szyndrowski said. “From protectionist and unconstitutional ownership restrictions for package stores and murky trade regulations to antiquated ‘blue laws’ banning the retail sale of spirits on Sundays, Texas laws remain severely outdated and need reform.”

The Texas Sunset Advisory Commission, the release says, has approved recommendations to the 86th Texas Legislature on changes to the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission and the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Code.

The Sunset commission was created by the Legislature in 1977 under the Texas Sunset Act to make state government more efficient, effective and accountable. The Sunset commission, composed of legislators and public members, periodically evaluates a state agency’s mission and performance to determine if the agency is still needed and to explore ways to ensure the state funds are well spent, the release says.

In North Carolina, state rules are either sunset — repealed — or are reviewed every 10 years.

The Distilled Spirits Council recommends, for example, that Texas remove unconstitutional ownership restrictions for package stores, repeal antiquated “blue laws” that ban the retail sale of distilled spirits on Sundays, and update trade practices for distilled spirits to treat all industry players fairly.

Some North Carolina lawmakers and most N.C. distillers have similar concerns.

The N.C. ABC meeting is in ABC Commission Office Complex Hearing Room 101, 400 East Tryon Road in Raleigh.