By Sean Hughes, Connecticut Package Stores Association
As we flip the calendar to a New Year and welcome 2022, many of the lessons learned in 2021 will help guide the three-tier system through another legislative session. Many proposals introduced in 2021 would have drastically changed the three-tier system in Connecticut for the worse. Thankfully, after successful advocacy by all three-tiers, the proposals to allow wine in grocery stores and beer to be sold in large box stores was defeated in the General Law Committee without even being brought up for a vote.
That result did not happen by chance, and the amount of opposition to the proposals that lawmakers heard was what defeated the proposals. Now, with just over a month until the start of the legislative session, the possibility is high that both of those proposals and others could be proposed again.
The 2021 legislative session was conducted remotely, with legislators coming to the building to meet in the House and Senate to vote on bills. The Legislative Office Building was closed entirely to the public. All of the committee meetings and public hearings were conducted on Zoom, which had both positive and negative effects.
One of the positives was it created a greater opportunity for members of the public to testify and have their voices heard on specific proposals. When the building is open to the public, testimony had to be done in-person, which prevented those who had to work or stay home with kids, etc. from testifying.
A big negative was the difficulty the closure created in effectively lobbying legislators for or against proposals. Communication was limited to phone calls and email. The phone calls and emails are effective to a certain extent, but nothing is more impactful than lobbying in-person in the halls of the Capitol, or an in-person meeting in a legislator’s district.
Over the past several months, CPSA has been very busy meeting with legislators on a number of different liquor issues at fundraisers and in-district meetings with store owners. The questions remain. Will the Capitol and Legislative Office Building be open to the pubic this session? Or, will the building remain closed due to the Omicron variant?
After asking legislators that belong to all four caucuses, the jury is still out as to what the verdict will be. The most likely scenario at this time will be for the legislative leaders to meet right before the session begins in early February and look at the hospitalization numbers and positivity rate.
Depending on what those metrics are, the building could again be closed throughout the session, or for the first part of the session with some sort of hybrid in-person and remote meeting structure later on, or the building will be fully open to the public with no restrictions.
Regardless of the proposals that are introduced, or if the session will be in-person or remote, CPSA will continue to adapt to protect the package store industry. The level of effort that is required to defeat these proposals continues to grow, but CPSA’s advocates are prepared to meet the challenge with the same strength and strategy that has served the association well for so many years.
Each year, opponents propose changes that may look different from one legislative session to the next. However, in the end, they always aim to take what you currently sell. CPSA will continue to find these dangerous proposals and defend your businesses, and preserve the laws that make the alcohol beverage industry in Connecticut so diverse and prosperous.
CPSA is always monitoring for developments affecting the industry within and outside of the legislative session. Our association in Connecticut is fighting every day for the rights of locally owned package stores across Connecticut. Support these efforts by joining CPSA today at CTPSA.com/join-cpsa/.