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2014 Legislative Session Sees a Number of Bills Concerning Beverage Industry

ct.gov logoBy Lauren Daley

Connecticut lawmakers are weighing a number of bills this session that could affect various members of the beverage industry. All bills must be decided upon by the time session ends on May 7, but most will be decided upon on various dates as session goes on. The progression of individual bills can be followed at www.cga.ct.gov, where full public testimony is also available for each.

Bottle Bill: The environmental advocacy group ConnPIRG is spearheading an
initiative to expand Connecticut’s “bottle bill” to include more recyclable beverage containers — including wine bottles, liquor bottles and nips. The General Assembly’s Environment Committee is currently considering a bill that would add these and other bottles to the list of returnable containers. Currently, the law requires cans and bottles of beer, soda and water to be returned for a 5-cent deposit. ConnPIRG is one of the organizations that helped push through Connecticut’s original Bottle Bill in 1978. They have also called for increasing the handling fee paid to recyclers to 3.5 cents — it is currently 1.5 cents for beer.

Carroll Hughes, head of the Connecticut Package Stores Association, said the CSPA is opposing this bill because “it’s unnecessary. Most of those items are going into organized collection programs already. Why change that pattern? Plus they’ll charge a deposit, which increases the price of the item for the package stores.”

General Assembly Bill No. 82: An act allowing package store permit holders and backers to hold gift basket retailer permits. Hughes said, “People can do gift baskets now, so unless they’re going to sell televisions or washing machines in the basket, we’re confused who wants that and for what purpose.”

General Assembly Bill 5099: An act that would allow backers and holders of caterer liquor permits to also be backers and holders of manufacturer permits for brew pubs and manufacturer permits for beer and brew pubs.

House Bill 5427: An Act to prohibit untimely shipping and unauthorized deliveries of alcoholic liquor by manufacturers and out-of-state shippers. The Connecticut Beer Wholesalers Association asked lawmakers at a March 6 public hearing to “hold” this bill, and House Bill 5428, An Act to authorize a floor stock allowance for beer. They said that Anheuser-Busch and Miller-Coors have asked for it to be held as well. The CSPA also submitted testimony at the public hearing stating their opposition to 5428 because “there is no guarantee it will lead to cheaper prices” and are concerned with the “damage it will do to product selection.”

House Bill 5429: An Act to establish a craft distillers’ alcoholic liquor permit. The CSPA submitted written testimony on a March 6 public hearing stating “the bill as currently written does not maintain the integrity of the minimum pricing system.” The Connecticut Small Brand Council also submitted testimony that they “cannot support the bill as written.”

House Bill 5430: An Act to allow restaurant and cafes to sell growlers of beer at retail. The Connecticut Beer Wholesalers Association said at a March 6 public hearing that they support the current system of brewers filling growlers and asked lawmakers to look at the “unintended consequences” of “introducing unknown variables in the delivery of alcohol.” The CSPA also submitted testimony opposing the bill.

Senate Bill No. 297: An Act establishing an off-site farm winery sales and tasting permit. The Connecticut Farm Bureau Association submitted testimony in support of this bill at the March 6 public hearing. At the same hearing, the Wine and Spirit Wholesalers of Connecticut submitted testimony opposing the bill.

Senate Bill No. 298: An Act concerning the extension of credit to alcoholic liquor retailers from manufacturers and wholesalers. The Wine and Spirit Wholesalers of Connecticut submitted testimony in opposition to this bill because without current “restrictions the largest retailers would be able to demand more favorable credit terms.”

Senate Bill No. 301: An Act concerning suspension of alcoholic liquor permits by municipal law enforcement officials. The Wine and Spirit Wholesalers of Connecticut submitted testimony in opposition to this bill because it is “unnecessary and will lead to varying standards across the state.”

House Bill No. 5425: An Act concerning the sale of farm winery brandy. The Connecticut Farm Bureau Association submitted testimony in support of this bill at the March 6 public hearing.

House Bill No. 5334: An Act concerning alcoholic liquor permits.

Senate Bill No. 269: An Act concerning a single alcoholic liquor permit for multiple events in a calendar year.

House Bill 5426: An Act allowing free wine tastings on premises where wine kits are sold.

The Beverage Journal will follow these bills throughout the legislative session.

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