By Carroll J. Hughes, Executive Director, CPSA
The alcohol beverage industry is moving into its pre-legislative session activities and lobbyists from the different interest groups are now frequently showing up at the Capitol as legislators begin to return. The Connecticut Package Stores Association (CPSA) is there too. The interim rules allow legislators to pre-file bills for the 2016 session, which begins on February 3, 2016. Normally, more bills are filed closer to the start date of the legislative session since the deadline for individual bills is February 5, just two days after the session opens. Committee bills are allowed until late February and all individual legislators’ bills have to be approved by a committee before a public hearing can occur.
The General Law Committee has a deadline date of Tuesday, March 15 to report bills out of committee. This means that bills affecting the liquor industry will have public hearings on Tuesday or Thursday during the weeks of February 15, 22, 29 or March 7. The deadline date for the legislature to end is Wednesday, May 4. However, it’s not over until it’s over because they could be called back into special session if they do not pass a budget revision bill by that date.
All package stores are reminded to contact your legislators again. Talk to them while they are in your store and call them about issues of concern to you. The CPSA will keep you informed, but many of the issues come up unexpectedly. We anticipate the traditional issues from the various interest groups but there are always new ones to contend with before the General Law Committee.
Ahead in 2016:
Possible Solid Waste Changes Coming: A solid waste study being conducted through the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) during the past few months has been completed, but not yet released, and may affect many product manufacturers. Although it has not yet been released, CPSA has learned of potential recommendations or methods that may be followed to gain the 60 percent rate. The goal of the recommendations will be to encourage more recycling and discourage the current system by increasing costs to change behavior so the system does not keep operating in its
Special Permit Now Required to Sell Electronic Cigarettes: Although Sec. 30-20 of the CT General Statutes allows package stores to sell cigarettes, a new law requires retailers to obtain a special permit from the Department of Consumer Protection to sell electronic cigarettes. The cost of this annual permit is $400 and was intended to be per premises. However, the department is interpreting the law to mean $400 per employee working at any premises selling the e-cigarettes, including convenience stores, grocery stores, gas stations, package stores and vapor shops. All sellers will need to have an electronic nicotine delivery system certificates by March 1, 2016 in order to continue selling the products regardless of any proposed changes this session.
Budget Gimmicks Could Continue: Although the budget issue for 2016 was resolved in the December Special Session for now, budget problems are expected to continue. It is anticipated that there may be another deficiency in the current 2016-2017 biennial budget. As part of the legislation passed during the special session, legislators gave the Governor the authority to cut another $93 million from the budget in 2016, but not more than 1 percent of any line item, which cannot be done without approval of all six legislative leaders.
If there is any unexpected revenue shortfall projected for the 2017 fiscal year, another round of revenue enhancements (taxes, fees, new projections of revenue) could be advanced by the Governor or the legislature in this session. The alcohol beverage industry could be subject to the same pressures that have occurred in recent years such as new sales of products, changes in alcohol pricing and increases in hours. We continue to remain vigilant.
Keep active and seek other package store owners to join CPSA and rally together. Let us know if you hear something from your legislators or others coming into your store. Visit us for more information on any of these topics and more, at www.CTPSA.com.