By L.A. Williams
Christian Action League
June 28, 2019
Two bills signed by Gov. Roy Cooper Wednesday both involve alcohol, but according to the Rev. Mark Creech, executive director of the Christian Action League, they couldn’t be more opposite in their anticipated effects.
House Bill 389, approved 33-12 in the Senate and 88-25 in the House, authorizes boards of trustees at University of North Carolina system schools to sell alcohol at their stadiums and athletic facilities, eliminating what one Senator called “one of the last family-friendly venues in the state.”
“Whether we want to admit it or not, we’re talking about the most destructive drug in the history of mankind, and we want to introduce it into our sporting arenas? I ask the question, ‘Are teams not entertainment enough?’ It will no doubt change the atmosphere of every UNC sporting event from now on,” Warren Daniel (R-Burke) told fellow senators during June 17’s debate.
“I can’t help but point out the irony compared to cigarette smoking, because there’s not a restaurant in North Carolina in which you’re allowed to smoke. We banned it because of its effects on those who choose not to smoke,” he added.
The Christian Action League had lobbied against the bill, and the Rev. Creech wrote the Governor a letter asking him to veto the measure, in part because alcohol abuse among college students already contributes to nearly 2,000 deaths every year from alcohol-related unintentional injuries or motor vehicle crashes.
“Nearly 700,000 college students are assaulted every year by another student who has been drinking. Every year, nearly 100,000 students report experiencing alcohol-related assault or date rape. And about one in four college students have serious academic problems because of their drinking,” he wrote.
Just as North Carolina banned smoking in restaurants for the sake of non-smokers, Dr. Creech said Gov. Cooper should consider the oft-overlooked stakeholders in the issue of allowing alcohol sales at public university venues.
“The parents who send their children to one of our state’s universities but know nothing about this legislation and would likely disapprove – the families who have been given no assurances from the language of this bill that there will be seating for them at a collegiate sporting event where they won’t have to deal with a drunken fan – the students who don’t drink but lose sleep or find it difficult to study because of their fellow students’ binge drinking – those living adjoining to college campuses, who suffer everything from serious litter problems to violence because of college campus drinking. These are some of the many people who do not choose alcohol or abuse it but would still have to live with the negative consequences of this legislation,” he said.
Read the letter from Rev. Creech to Governor Cooper by clicking here
In the CAL’s coverage of the issue, the Rev. Creech commended Sen. Daniels and Sen. Rick Horner (R-Johnston), for taking bold stands against the bill.
“All too often, it’s not the facts and it’s not the truth, it’s not even common sense that wins the day in politics, its power and money,” Creech said. “Still, not everyone will sell their soul. There remains, bless God, a few men and women of good judgment and conviction.”
That good judgment was evident in the second piece of legislation signed into law by Cooper on Wednesday, a seven-page ABC Regulation and Reform bill championed by Sen. Andy Wells (R-Catawba) and strongly supported by the Christian Action League.
In addition to raising the legal age for holding an ABC permit from 19 to 21, the new law increases fines for ABC violations that involve violence, controlled substances or prostitution. It authorizes the ABC Commission to limit a permittee’s operating hours and requires establishments seeking to operate as “private clubs” under ABC laws to first prove that they are nonprofit entities that have been in operation for at least 12 months prior to their permit application.
Drafted with input from the Alcohol Beverage Control Commission and from Alcohol Law Enforcement, the new measure prevents bar managers who do not qualify for their own permits because of poor past behavior from operating under someone else’s. It also allows local law enforcement agencies to work with the Commission’s legal division staff in certain undercover operations which could result in the ABC permits being suspended or revoked. In the past, only ALE agents or local ABC board officers could do so.
The Rev. Creech, who has addressed alcohol policy at the Legislature for almost 20 years, heralded the law as the best alcohol legislation he has seen.
“The legislation is measured in its approach. It’s not anti-business. It’s not unfair in any manner. All that it does is hold bad players accountable. Its penalties, in my estimation, are demonstrative of patience, giving establishments an opportunity to correct their course, while at the same time making them aware of the gravity of responsibility which comes with running their kind of establishment,” Creech said.
Senate Bill 11, shepherded through the General Assembly by Wells following five murders outside of Hickory bars in a year’s time, was less controversial than the one allowing alcohol sales in college stadiums.
In fact, it passed the Senate unanimously on June 19 following a 105-to-2 vote in the House nearly a week before.