By Sean Hughes, Account Director, Connecticut Package Stores Association
Congratulations! We have officially survived another election cycle, and we can finally watch television and log in to social media and other applications without the bombardment of political ads. In addition to the presidential election, every seat in the Connecticut General Assembly was on the ballot in their respective districts. Connecticut’s state election results were thankfully more conclusive on election night than the presidential election, which was fraught with confusion and contention.
In Connecticut, Democrats picked up seven seats in the House of Representatives, expanding their majority, which they have had in Connecticut for decades. There are now 98 Democrats and 53 Republicans in the House. In the Senate, Democrats were not only able to hold on to all of their seats, but took two additional seats from Republicans. The Senate is now comprised of 24 Democrats and 12 Republicans.
Many new members have been elected to the Connecticut General Assembly, bringing new viewpoints and priorities with them. A good number of these new members in the House of Representatives have highlighted in their campaign information the need to protect the environment and to enact legislation to clean up waste and limit the use of or ban certain items. Some of these environmental goals will have a significant impact on the liquor industry in Connecticut.
A common theme that was mentioned on the campaign trail was the banning of the increasingly popular “nips,” or miniature liquor bottles. These small, mostly plastic liquor bottles have been a significant litter issue in many municipalities throughout the state. Several environmental groups and elected leaders have voiced their concern over the bottles, as they have grown in quantity along Connecticut roadways and in waterways.
These bottles are likely to be discussed by the legislature’s Environment Committee, who could decide to include them in Connecticut’s “bottle bill,” which would place a deposit on them for redemption. This, in turn, would make retailers and wholesalers responsible for redeeming and then transporting the nips after they are redeemed by a customer.
There have also been proposals to ban nips entirely in Connecticut. While there has been some advocacy from the liquor industry to address this issue through the “Nip It in the Bin” campaign, time will tell if it has been enough to convince the legislature to leave the bottles alone.
In addition to the “nip” issue, the inclusion of wine and liquor bottles in the state’s bottle bill is likely to be the biggest issue for package stores in this upcoming legislative session. Throughout the summer and fall, numerous working groups led by municipal leaders have been meeting to discuss Connecticut’s waste and recycling systems.
One of the main subjects of these working groups has been how to deal with the issues caused by glass in the waste and recycling streams. At the forefront of their solutions is a proposal to include glass wine and liquor bottles in the state’s bottle bill. For most package stores in Connecticut, taking back wine and liquor bottles will effectively turn their businesses into a recycling center, forcing them to get rid of valuable retail space to make room for dirty, smelly bottles in their place of business until they can be picked up. In addition to several other fiscal, logistical and health issues that would come about from such a change, this would only create more issues in the long run. While some groups think this will help, others believe the only solution is source separation, where recyclables are sorted at the curb and picked up accordingly by haulers. This is looked at as a good solution, since wine and liquor bottles are already largely placed correctly in the recycling stream.
Regardless of political party, many of the newly elected legislators will be under a lot of pressure by municipal leaders to address the growing issues in the waste system. Those legislators will feel obligated to enact legislation to help the districts they represent, and could introduce legislative proposals that have never been seen before in the Connecticut General Assembly.
We will continue to stay engaged with the legislature to track what will be in store for the liquor industry this legislative session, which begins in early January. It certainly has the potential to present major challenges for local package stores in an already difficult year. If you have not yet renewed your membership or have not been a member before, now is the time to join CPSA. Support the only association protecting your business today. For more information, visit CPSA online.