Legislative Update: A lesson in unintended consequences; I’ll drink to that!

4 mins read

I thought I had found the ultimate bi-partisan issue. Something we could all agree on and where no ideological issue of left and right would interfere and no discussion of more government vs. less government. Beer! But alas it was not to be so and after a learning about it with unintended consequences I find myself wanting to hide in the closet with a bottle of wine.

Rep. Lance Harvell

It all started harmless enough while campaigning I was approached by some microbrewers who wondered if it would be possible to have their products sampled like wine tasters do. The current law only allowed wine, not beer, to be sampled and these folks as well as a couple distributors asked if I could look into it. After winning the special election last February I looked into it. The wine tasting law seemed a perfectly acceptable vehicle: it limits sample size and amounts, those under the influence could not be served and tastings were limited to no more than once a month. So I merely sought to add malt liquors to the current law. Simple enough so far; the result was LD 1168.

A hearing before the committee was set and I showed up, but Rep. Tuttle had a similar bill so my bill was killed and they sought to add my language to his bill. The result was LD 498. So far so good right? Not quite. Rep. Webster of Freeport, thought there was a problem with young people viewing these tasting events and added an amendment that would require any establishment wishing a tasting to have it in an area unobservable by those underage. It passed committee with a 12-1 vote bi-partisan enough for any bill. When the bill arrived on the House floor for a vote I questioned the amendment and its enforcement. No one saw much of a problem so under the hammer, (that is passed without a roll call vote, or unanimously) it went. The law was set to be enacted on Sept. 21.

Then the problems began because we did not grandfather those already allowed to host wine tastings. Now they must all reapply for permits and do so under the new requirements. These are small businesses that use the summer months to have tastings and generate business. They now may lose the permits because of the amendment. A call to liquor enforcement showed the problem to be greater than they thought and wonder what it means to be in an area unobservable to those under the age of 21. Does that mean these areas will have to add blinds so no one will peer through the windows? You may think I am making this up but that is a direct quote.

I phoned Rep. Webster to try and figure a solution and he has asked the speaker of the House and the president of the Senate to see if we can get a ruling from the Attorney General on enforcement until we get back into session. He has submitted a bill which I will co-sponsor to fix this problem but it cannot happen until January. He said in his 6 years this little amendment has caused him one of his biggest headaches, so much for an easy bi-partisan issue. With probably 20 percent of all bills during a session fixing problems other bills started it is no wonder someone told me if you vote No 100 percent of the time you will be right 85 percent of the time. After this lesson, I’ll drink to that!

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