PA: Bootlegging no longer illegal? A raft of new liquor reforms work through Pa. Legislature

Mark Willingham Uncategorized

PA:  Bootlegging no longer illegal? A raft of new liquor reforms work through Pa. Legislature


By Wallace McKelvey

June 29, 2016

Ever brought a six-pack of beer home from the beach? Or a bottle of hard-to-find single malt whiskey from an out-of-state distillery?

You broke the law.

Under current state law, residents can be fined $10 per bottle or can of beer and $25 per container of wine or liquor if they’re caught bringing it across state lines. In practice, the prohibition against “bootlegging” is scantly enforced — between 2007 and 2015, the Pennsylvania State Police recorded just 16 violations — but the quirk in state law has been a consistent pet peeve of some lawmakers.

“I do not want to continue to subject my constituents to being criminals because they may purchase alcohol a quarter of a mile from their house,” Rep. John Taylor, R-Philadelphia County, told PennLive last year.

After years of banging that drum, a bill making its way through the Legislature this week could repeal the so-called “anti-bootlegging” law.

House Bill 1196 began its life as a temporary allowance to expand alcohol service during Philadelphia’s Democratic National Convention taking place July 25-28.

On Tuesday, the bill was amended to serve as a conveyance for a raft of other reforms to the state’s convoluted liquor laws and an addendum of sorts to thehistoric bipartisan liquor reform bill that was signed by Gov. Tom Wolf earlier this month.

Provisions of this new law include:

[if !supportLists]·         [endif]So called “mug clubs,” which typically offer discounts on beer in exchange for a a membership fee, would no longer be required to provide a mug to customers.

[if !supportLists]·         [endif]Removes the handling fee that the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board can charge in addition to logistics, transportation and merchandising costs.

[if !supportLists]·         [endif]Removes the ability of the PLCB to take a portion of Pennsylvania Lottery sales, which it was allowed to begin offering at state sales during the previous bill.

[if !supportLists]·         [endif]Information about customer purchases would be exempt from the state’s Right to Know Law.

[if !supportLists]·         [endif]Reduces the fees for the license that would allow casinos to sell alcohol 24/7. For example, the initial fee for the first year would be reduced from $1 million to $500,000.

[if !supportLists]·         [endif]Clarifies that new establishments, such as grocery stores, that will soon be allowed to sell wine can make the transactions at the same register that processes beer and food sales.

[if !supportLists]·         [endif]Orders the PLCB to create regulations for the sales of “infusions.” For example, it’s common for vodka to be infused with fruit or other flavorings by bars and other establishments.

[if !supportLists]·         [endif]Amends the “dead license” auctions provision of the previous law to stipulate that four auctions will occur each year with no more than 50 licenses available at each auction. At least one license must be awarded to a county in five separate regions of the state with no more than five license sales in any one county in each auction. This is designed to prevent the oversaturation of new licenses in any one place.

[if !supportLists]·         [endif]Repeals the requirement from the earlier law for a commission to study full privatization.

[if !supportLists]·         [endif]Provides the PLCB up to two years to establish regulations from the sweeping reforms enacted by the General Assembly, with temporary regulations expiring after four years.

[if !supportLists]·         [endif]Requires beer manufacturers to file a report on taxable sales by volume to the PLCB.

[if !supportLists]·         [endif]PLCB stores can begin their Sunday sales at 9 a.m.

[if !supportLists]·         [endif]Decriminalizes the transport of alcohol by citizens across state lines.

The new bill could prove to be a mixed bag for the PLCB, which will have more time to adjust to the changes without the immediate pressure of full privatization. At the same time, the removal of handling fees and reduction in casino license fees could cut into revenue.

As of Wednesday, a firm estimate of the financial impact of the amended bill was not yet known.

Rep. Bill Adolph, R-Delaware County, said a fiscal note was pending after a meeting of the House Appropriations Committee he chairs.