ABC changes possible, but not any time soon

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July 25, 2019
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July 25, 2019
ABC changes possible, but not any time soon

 

I’d rather write about more pressing matters, such as the NC budget impasse, the need for Medicaid expansion, and providing more support for our teachers and public schools. But few state government issues generate more interest than Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC). I want to share a first-hand account of what is happening in Raleigh on this topic.

 

The House ABC Committee met Tuesday (July 23) to discuss a bill that would privatize liquor sales in North Carolina.  I will share the gist of the discussion but the main takeaway from the meeting is this: Relax; no significant changes will be proposed or enacted in the foreseeable future.

 

The bill’s primary sponsor Rep. Chuck McGrady (R-Henderson) unequivocally stated during the committee meeting that a privatization bill will NOT pass this year and “probably not next year.” Rep. McGrady is a widely respected legislator; we can trust him on that point.

 

The bill came about after the NC General Assembly requested a study of ABC laws be conducted by the Program Evaluation Division.  The study determined what would happen given specific scenarios (limited changes in ABC law compared to complete privatization). The study’s recommendations included limited changes to modernize ABC laws in the state.

 

The bill in its current form goes further, however. The bill would:

  • Close state-run ABC stores and dissolve local ABC boards.
  • License private businesses for liquor sales.
  • Create a new process for appropriating and distributing tax revenue to state and local governments.
  • Revise which government agency or agencies enforce ABC laws.

 

 

In the committee meeting on Tuesday, the bill was put forth “for discussion only.” No motions were made or voted on. From the discussion it’s clear strong support and strong opposition to the bill exists. Rep. McGrady stated that nothing would be done without an extensive public comment period.

 

Counties and municipalities are concerned about revenue and control over liquor sales. Rep. McGrady handed out a fiscal memo during the meeting that showed overall local revenue increasing if privatization is passed. However much work remains to ensure that county and town budgets would not be adversely affected if the bill were passed.

 

Eight states currently have state-controlled liquor sales (including North Carolina). The other 42 have privatized sales.

 

Much work remains to be done on this privatization bill. Until that work is complete, I cannot know if I would support it. I will follow the process closely and keep you informed.

 

Again, I wrote this column to allay concerns that major changes are underway in how sales of liquor are carried out in this state. We have many immediate issues: the budget, Medicaid expansion, and support for schools head that list.