Connecticut is a step closer to Sunday alcohol sales, after a key committee voted in favor of the measure. But the bill leaves in place many protections for small package stores worried about sweeping deregulation. WNPR’s Harriet Jones reports.
This has been one of the consuming issues in this short legislative session – one that prompted a marathon 12-hour public hearing before the General Law Committee. Republic state Senator John Kissell said it was an extraordinary day.
“I probably saw more people in this building than I have ever seen. I’ve seen the first floor filled up. I have not seen every additional floor filled up.”
Since that hearing the members of the committee have been locked in negotiations – and the bill that’s emerged preserves the centerpiece of the Governor’s proposals. It would allow package stores and groceries to sell alcohol between 10am and 5pm on Sundays. Representative Kathy Tallarita, a long-time campaigner for Sunday sales said she’s glad to see that issue put to rest.
“But I am disappointed that we didn’t do more with actually lowering pricing to consumers, because I think that the Governor’s bill actually tried to do just that, was to lower prices to consumers, and also make us more competitive with our surrounding states.”
Among other things, Tallarita had supported the idea of convenience stores at gas stations being able to sell beer, a measure that didn’t make it into this version of the bill. The legislation also mostly preserves minimum bottle pricing, and expands the number of licenses one person can hold from two to three. Malloy had proposed nine. Many of those issues will come up again though, according to members of the committee, because this bill also establishes a taskforce on deregulating the liquor industry. Republican state Senator Kevin Witkos:
“To contemplate and to legislate such wide-ranging reforms that were initially before us in such a short session would have been very difficult. So I think the task force is the right way to go, where we can have folks from all the different industries present. Because when I left that public hearing, it was almost – who do you believe?”
Co-chair of the committee Representative Joseph Taborsak concurred that this bill is incremental modernization, rather than wholesale reform.
"We’ve gone as far as we can in a short session and have put a bill before you that is pro-consumer and pro-small business without engaging in guesswork with people’s jobs and livelihoods at stake. None of us want to get this wrong and do something to put people out of business – not the Governor – he doesn’t want that, not this committee, none of us want to make that mistake."
The bill will now go before the full legislature, which must take action on it before the end of the session on May 9th.
For WNPR, I'm Harriet Jones.