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URGENT CHRISTIAN ACTION ALERT: Vote on Two Worst Alcohol Bills Tentatively Scheduled for Next Week

By Hunter Hines
Christian Action League
April 14, 2017

Tuesday, the House ABC Committee considered for discussion only HB 460 – Economic and Job Growth for NC Distilleries and HB 500 – ABC Omnibus Legislation. No votes were taken. A vote on both bills, however, is tentatively scheduled for next week (Wednesday) and the vote count in committee appears very close.

The Christian Action League believes it’s critical to immediately contact the lawmaker who represents you in the NC House and urge him/her to reject the passage of these two measures.

If you don’t know who represents you in the NC House, click here to find out. If one of the members of the House ABC Committee is your Representative, it’s especially urgent that you contact him/her without delay. To see a list of the House ABC Committee members and their contact information, click here. Don’t hesitate to contact them at home over the Easter Holiday.

Dr. Mark Creech, executive director of the Christian Action League, said that both bills were the worst alcohol measures he had seen in his twenty year tenure addressing alcohol legislation, and the irony is that they were being taken up in April, which is Alcohol Awareness Month.

“Both of these bills are very egregious,” said Dr. Creech, “But the worst of the two, I believe, is HB 500. It must die or you can kiss alcohol public safety and health goodbye!”

In recent days Dr. Creech has written extensively about HB 500 and HB 460.

Read: (Part 1) The Two Worst Pieces of Alcohol Legislation I’ve seen in Nearly Twenty Years of Addressing Alcohol Policy

Read: (Part 2) The Two Worst Pieces of Alcohol Legislation I’ve Seen in Nearly Twenty Years of Addressing Alcohol Policy

Tuesday, Dr. Creech spoke before the House ABC Committee and urged its members to vote against HB 460. Below is the manuscript from his remarks:

SPEECH FOR HB 460

Ladies and Gentlemen of the Committee, I’m Rev. Mark Creech, executive director of the Christian Action League.

In my remarks, I want to share with you four concerns about HB 460.

First, we should be concerned about the way it would allow direct shipment of distillery products to out of state residents, exacerbating the problems of underage drinking.  Although distilleries already have the privilege of shipping their products to “public or private agencies,” this change allows distilleries to ship their products to individuals.

The June 2015 Report to Congress on the Prevention and Reduction of Underage Drinking, noted a study in North Carolina of a group of 8 18-20 year old research assistants, who placed 100 orders for alcoholic beverages using internet sites by out-of-state retailers. Forty-five percent of the orders were successfully completed in handing over these alcoholic beverages to underage drinkers.

In other words, this is already a problem. Why would we want to add to the problem of underage drinking for other states?

Second, it allows for additional bottles of liquor to be sold at a distillery, further eroding North Carolina’s program for the sale of liquor at ABC stores. Distilleries were granted one bottle to sell at the distillery in 2015. Then they came back in 2016 and requested more, although legislation to that end never passed. This year they are doing the same. And, if this is approved, what’s next? When will this end?

Third, it provides for free liquor tastings at an ABC store, which is a paradigm shift in the function of an ABC store. In the interest of regulation, control, and a temperent society, ABC stores have always been neutral, never partnering with the industry for the promotion of liquor. This creates a fundamental change.

As far as free liquor tasting events at trade shows, conventions, etc. are concerned. It seems to me that we are placing liquor on an equal par with beer and wine, which is also a departure from our traditional belief that spirits are more problematic than other forms of alcohol because of their higher alcohol content.

This, I suggest, will likely undermine policies regarding spirits in other ways.

Lastly, the legislation rolls back the time for selling booze from 12:00 noon to 10:00 am on Sundays. There is no question that the Sunday sales law has been in place for decades in deference and respect for the churches that end their worship services around noon.

Churches spend significant ministry funds, and church staffs spend significant time ministering to people every week whose lives have been injured or completely ruined by alcohol abuse. Is it too much to ask the state to continue showing deference and respect to these churches by not rolling back the drinking time to the same as their prime meeting time?

For these reason, we hope you will not approve this bill.

Later in the same meeting, Dr. Creech spoke again before the House ABC Committee and urged its members to vote against HB 500. Below is the manuscript from his remarks on that initiative:

HB 500 Speech

Ladies and Gentlemen of the Committee, I have already been introduced to you earlier today.

We enjoy three branches of government on both the federal and state levels. The primary purpose for this way of governing was because our founders were wisely suspicious of concentrations of power.

After the repeal of Prohibition, a template for alcohol control was developed, and passed along to states that drew from this principle, creating the Three-Tier system of alcohol control – manufacturers, wholesalers, and retailers. Its purpose was to break up the concentrations of power that precipitated many of the abuses that led to Prohibition. The Three-Tier fashioned a conglomeration, if you will, of competing alcohol interests. So it is unable to speak with one voice or act in unison.

The system does not work perfectly, no more than our three branches of government do. Nevertheless, it has worked exceedingly well.

  • To encourage and promote a more temperate and responsible culture with respect to alcohol use.
  • To prevent overly aggressive marketing and sales practices that can lead to alcohol falling into the wrong hands like underage drinkers.
  • To provide a clear and identifiable distribution chain that ensures the location of every ounce of a product well-known for its inherent dangers.
  • And, to establish a transparent means of collecting taxes.

I suggest to you, with all due respect to its sponsors, that HB 500 would be disastrous to our efforts at alcohol control because it would, practically speaking, allow a complete circumvention of the second tier of our Three-tier system by craft breweries.

It would allow the breweries a concentration of power with retailers, significantly diminishing critical checks and balances.

Few people in our state really understand alcohol policy, and, therefore, few understand the danger of HB 500. Nevertheless, you should stop this bill!

Like a virus to a computer’s hard drive, it will destroy our state’s ability to effectively “control” and “regulate” alcohol in a manner that minimizes the excesses that translate into harm.

I have heard the many arguments concerning “freedom” and “free markets.” But we should no more allow the brewers by all practical means to circumvent the Three-Tier to any degree, than we would allow public policy to be formed by bypassing one the branches of our government.

This is especially true for a product like alcohol, which is not an ordinary commodity. 

Freedom is best served when power is spread about. I urge you today to preserve the Three-Tier, keeping it strong, by rejecting this legislation. 

URGENT: TAKE CHRISTIAN ACTION NOW:

Please contact your Representative in the North Carolina House immediately and ask him/her to vote “NO” on the following proposed alcohol legislation:

HB 500 – ABC Omnibus Legislation

HB 460 – Economic and Job Growth for NC Distilleries

You can contact them by email. Afterward, follow up with a phone call to their office.

You should contact them while they are at home over the Easter Holiday.

You can derive any talking points you wish from Dr. Creech’s speeches on HB 460 and HB 500.

If you don’t know who represents you in the NC House, click here to find out. This is especially true if one of the members of the House ABC Committee is your Representative. To see a list of the House ABC Committee members and their contact information, click here.