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Nationalize liquor laws…Straight up!

January 28, 2018 1 comment

I am arguing in favor of nationalizing liquor laws, by which is meant laws pertaining to the hours of service licensee liability and the taxation of beverage alcohol.  These regulations are currently a mish-mash of Federal, state, local and regional dictums which are very contradictory yet serve entrenched interests.

My argument is not against the serving of commercial interests but rather that these interests should be brought together under one national doctrine.

Nor am I advocating alcohol consumption per se.  I am arguing in favor of national law regarding the sales hours and taxation of beverage alcohol.

Additionally I advocate a national policy regarding licensee liability.  Massachusetts follows the doctrine of Dram Shop liability which can make defendant licensees civilly liable for a claim by a plaintiff.  Additionally, this responsibility extends to the license itself as any crime permitted on premises is applied to the licensee.  I am in favor of Dram Shop liability on a national basis.

In 1984 Massachusetts(MA) adopted a phase-in, known as the “step years,” twenty one(21) for legal drinking with those already franchised as twenty(20) year-old legal drinkers “grandfathered” as legal with the age being increased annually until all in the state of MA were 21 or required to be so in 1986.

Even more than thirty years ago the contradictory nature of liquor laws was apparent as the N.Y. Times noted that MA governor Michael Dukakis said “we have to” change the drinking age so as not to lose an estimated $25.5 million in Federal funds.

  http://www.nytimes.com/1984/12/05

Even more contradictory is that in 1973 MA had made eighteen(18) the legal drinking age following 18 year-olds getting the right to vote in 1971 via the Amendment XXVI.

  https://constitutioncenter.org/interactive-constitution/amendment

Taxes on beverage alcohol are often cited as the rational for local liquor laws.  “Sin taxes” boast the advantage of being a voluntary sales tax for a product that is not essential.  Here in MA taxes are levied on wholesalers and passed along to on-premise providers and retailers.

MA currently taxes at a rate of $4.05 dollars per gallon of wholesale sales which ranks MA 34th. among all states.  On a more practical level this means that a one liter, 33.8 fluid ounce bottle is paying 33.8/128 ounces=$2.64 in MA state tax.  This example applies to 40% alcohol by volume distilled spirits.

However, neighboring New Hampshire has no state liquor tax and is thus able to undercut the prices of MA retailers close to the N.H./MA state line.

  https://taxfoundation.org

Has a MA person become a better person for not participating in what some describe as MA “confiscatory” liquor taxes by visiting N.H?

I think not.

Has the New Hampshire retailer done anything illegal?

No.

Has the Massachusetts purchaser done anything illegal?

No.

However, the mere expedient of crossing a state line should not result in a price that is any lower or higher than what wholesale prices and the market dictates.

Indeed, an examination of tax rates on distilled spirits reveals Washington to have the highest rate at $33.54 a gallon in stark contrast to N.H’s tax-free policy.  MA ranks 34th. in per-gallon rates as of 2016.

  ibid tax foundation

Another area of differences between states lies in closing hours for venues which serve alcohol.

However, even within states local laws differ.  New York City allows bars to open at 7 A.M. and serve until 4 A.M.

  http://www1.nyc.gov/nyc-resources/faq/482/how-late-can-a-bar

However, my hometown of Port Washington, Long Island, N.Y. permits 8 A.M. for opening and 2 A.M. for weekdays while restricting 4 A.M. to weekends and the nights before legal holidays.  (No citation available).

As per MA and N.H. with their taxation policies what we have here is an arbitrary set of laws established for no defined purpose whose effect is dismissive of consistency and hurts commerce.

While Port Washington is hardly the urban behemoth of New York City this is not morally sufficient to deny folks access to a legal product while burdening New York City with potential public safety issues.

New Orleans offers 24 hour alcohol service which is among the attractions of Mardi Gras.  Certainly, the New Orleans adult beverage business benefits from 24 hour service but folks not wanting to be subjected to non-stop revelry will be disinclined to reside in a city that might otherwise be a good location.

Yet, Baton Rouge, Louisiana restricts service to 2 A.M.

Once again there does not seem to be any substantive reason for such an extreme variance in service time.

It is worth mentioning that Louisiana ranks 43rd. in taxes at $2.50 per gallon of distilled spirits.

  ibid resources

In this way 24 hour service enables increased consumption thus enabling a relatively low tax rate.

It might be objected that varying laws are acceptable and even morally worthy as the Constitution specifies that unenumerated rights return to the states.

  https://constitutioncenter.org/interactive-constitution/amendment

However, states’ rights were the basis for slavery and segregation, surely an ignoble tradition.

Moreover, drinking is not a ‘right’ in the Constitutional sense so nationalization would not be needlessly restrictive.

Yes, states have the right and the need to levy taxes but this should not be at the expense of legitimate commerce or circumventing Federal authority.

Indeed, the debate over ‘unenumerated rights’ of the IX Amendment have been going on since the ratification of the Constitution in 1787.

ibid constitution center

Additionally, both honest confusion and deliberate malfeasance are encouraged by this crazy quilt of regulation and anarchy simultaneously.  Localities desiring to make themselves appealing need to develop attractions other than unbridled drinking.

Conversely, there is scant moral justification in barring access to a legal product legitimately obtained.

Yet, all states abide by a 21 year-old requirement for legal drinking thus contradicting the argument of nationalization being too difficult to create and maintain.

  My argument is for the nationalization of all drinking legislation regarding liability, taxation and hours of service.

This national reform would yield benefits both tangible and moral.

A national liquor tax would remove onerous mandates that both stifle and increase business thus permitting market forces to prevail.

I argue that a national liquor tax have its proceeds divided by the proportion of sales tallied by each state and distributed per those percentages.  The digital technology of our 21st. century makes this a practical technique which would be implemented via the indirect subsidy provided by the lower taxed states having to meet one national standard.

Hours of service would be set nationally as well.  While drinking isn’t a ‘right’ in the Constitutional sense, I argue that it is immoral for authorities at the state or local level to set guidelines that grant or deprive drinkers access to beverage alcohol by the dubious virtue of location.

Public safety is best served by setting a consistent moral tone in the writing of laws that are clear and easily understood by all concerned parties.

I will speculate that the elimination of 24 hour drinking in New Orleans may well reduce that city’s homicide rate even as Mardi Gras tourist traffic would likely diminish.

  http://nola.com/crime/index.ssf/2017/01/shootings

I propose national hours of 8 A.M. to 3 A.M. with no exceptions for legal holidays.  Establishments would be free to close earlier but state or local legislation would not be able to impose a change in hours.

Consistent standards would enable tax collection, serve legitimate guests and lessen the excesses of the adult beverage industry.

Justice is best served straight up.

WORKS CITED

  AP.  “Bill to Set Drinking Age at 21 In Massachusetts Is Signed.”  nytimes.com New York Times 5 Dec. 1984. Web. 27 March.  2017

  http:www.nytimes.com/1984/12/05/us/bill-to-set-          drinking-age

  Tax Foundation.  “How High Are Taxes on Distilled Spirits in Your State?”  2016

  https://taxfoundation.org/how-high-are-taxes-distilled-spirits

  Constitution Center.  “Amendment XXVI Right to Vote at Age 18.  Constitution Center.  Web. 28 March 2017

  https://consitutioncenter.org/interactive-constitution/amendment

  Constitution Center.  “Non-Enumerated Rights Retained by People” Constitution Center.  Web. 28 March. 2017

  https://constitutioncenter.org/interactive-constitution/amendment

  Lane, Emily.  “With spike in violence, new Orleans had more shootings per capita than Chicago in 2016.”  NOLA.com.  The Times-Picayune, 27, Jan. 2017, Web. 28 March. 2017

  http://nola.com/crime/index.ssf/2017/01/shootings

 

 

 

 


 

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HAIKU 5*7*5* A stain on the sheet

December 12, 2017 1 comment

A stain on the sheet

Rinse off shampoo residue

Lather, rinse, repeat

LIBERALISM

November 4, 2017 Leave a comment

“I have learned, in middle age, that I have a different concept of what it means to be liberal than does most of our society.  Liberalism is not grounded in sensitivity, which is the determination to say or do nothing which, might give offense, rather it is grounded in tolerance which is the determination not to take offense.

HAIKU 5*7*5* Resolutions

October 18, 2017 1 comment

Twenty seventeen

Making resolutions for

Two thousand eighteen

HAIKU 5*7*5* Walk home

September 7, 2017 1 comment

Just don’t have a car

Fifty seven hundred shifts

Walk home from the bar

HAIKU 5*7*5* Bunker Hill Community College

May 10, 2017 2 comments

Just trying to save

Community college girl

Food in microwave

First night in Boston, September 19, 1978

February 14, 2017 1 comment

First night in Boston

September 19, 1978

First night in Boston was something that had been foremost in my mind for better than a year.  I had spent the previous 2 days pacing a hole in the living room carpet while debating my leave taking for Boston.

I was enrolled in Northeastern University but the apartment I had secured had been rented out from under me leaving me to hitchhike, again, to Boston to find housing for the upcoming semester.

Boston Common Realty rented me a spacious, albeit dilapidated, studio on Huntington Ave. for $160 a month directly across the street from the N.U. quad.

I hitchhiked back home to Port Washington, N.Y. and packed the trusty foot locker which had seen me through a 12 year-old’s rustic New Hampshire summer camp, 2 summers of sports camp and 4 summers of Massachusetts religious camp, with underwear and the clock radio my parents had bought me for Christmas 1970.  I was undecided as to what else to bring.

As the departure day loomed my feet got cold as I contemplated moving to a city where I had no employment lined up, formidable academic challenges and less than $100 in liquid cash after having a summer camp counselor-in-training position defunded.

I did have a ride from a friend however…if only to the Throgs Neck Bridge.

My friend called.

“Hey Steve, you pussy.  Have you pulled the panties out of your crack?” offered my friend.

“Thanks for the reminder,” I wittily replied.

“Steve, you’ve hitched 200 miles at midnight with $10 in your pocket and you’re afraid of college?  You even said you wanted out of Port; like y’know, yesterday.”

I replied, “Yeah, I know what I said but it just seems that I’ll be moving into a new place without having a job or money.”

My friend was a good guy.

He answered, “You moved into that place on Main St. with only a little more..”

I interrupted and said, “But that was only a few hundred yards away and I moved back at the end of the summer.  This is a much bigger move in more ways than one.”

My friend answered, “I can give you a ride tomorrow but after that I have to get back to work.”

“I will call you tomorrow,” I answered and hung up.

I knew that it was now or never.

I bounced my foot locker down the 13 stairs to the dining room.

Ker plunk.

Ker plunk.

Ker plunk.

I stuffed my foot locker with shirts and more underwear.

I grabbed my green Army surplus duffle bag from the drying line in the basement and stuffed it with the books and records that I deemed worthy of sustaining me through whatever might transpire in my soon-to-be home.

And then anxiety, as evidenced by my sweating soles, overcame me.

I turned on our 12″ black and white TV to see the reassuring ineptitude of my N.Y. Mets.

Lindsay Nelson’s calm baritone spoke through the speakers, “And the Yankees will be fending off the Brewers tomorrow night at Yankee Stadium as Dick Tidrow and Mike Caldwell face off.”

Being a Mets fan I loathed the Yankees and relished the chance to root against them.

I stepped to our side porch where my brother Peter and his friends were puzzled by my mixed emotions.

“Hey Steve, we can’t miss you if you don’t leave,” offered a friend of my brother Peter.

I now knew I had to leave.

I called my friend.

“What time can you drive me to the Throgs Neck?”

“I work until 6, so around 7.  So you finally made up your mind?” my friend asked in a question that was the answer.

The next day I was packed early and spent the afternoon bemoaning the defunding of my counselor-in-training earnings while taking in the sights of Port Washington’s Main St. and gazing at the apartment I had occupied for 90 days earlier in the summer.

I went to my bedroom and attempted to sleep.

I laid on my back.

I laid on my left side.

I laid on my right side.

I touched myself.

I turned on my clock radio, which I had retrieved from my foot locker and listened to WBLS…

“…Frankie Crocker with the world’s best looking sound…”

…eventually falling into a fitful sleep and awakening on a very warm afternoon.  I putzed around the house before bouncing my foot locker down the 13 stairs of 42 North Bayles Avenue, Port Washington, New York.

Ker plunk.

Ker plunk.

Ker plunk.

At the bottom of the stairs I opened my foot locker to make sure that my clock radio was wrapped in clothing so as not to be damaged on my trip.

I was too nervous to eat.  7 P.M. loomed and I wrestled in my mind whether to call my friend.  I wanted to push without being pushy.  My brother Peter’s friends came by and toasted me with a bong.

“Aw, you’re not going to go,” said one.

“Wanna bet?” I replied.

It was 7:30, dark, yet still very warm.  I tucked my Sweet-Orr work shirt into my Uncle Sam fatigues.

The phone rang.  It was my friend.

“Sorry I’m late.  Ready to go?”

“Yup,” I stammered as my heart hammered.

In 15 minutes my friend’s red VW squareback pulled up.  I had met my friend while hitchhiking 2 years ago and now that very same vehicle was to be my way out.

My Mom came out of the house and gave me a loaf of banana bread and told me that I could call collect when I made my arrival in Boston.  Mom’s eyes were wet.

My friend dragged my foot locker to the rear of the red VW squareback.

Ker plunk.

Ker plunk.

Ker plunk.

My friend shifted gears and we were off to the access road leading from the L.I.E. to the Grand Central Parkway.

“…this is Tony Pigg rocking ’til 10 PM tonight…”

“Hey, could change the station?” I asked.

“Please don’t tell me you want to listen to disco again.  Didn’t you get your fill at work?” my friend wondered.

“The Yanks are playing the Brewers and as a Mets fan the enemy of my enemy is my friend.”

My friend smiled and dialed in WINS AM as the throaty tones of Frank Messer intoned. “Going for the Brewers tonight is Mike Caldwell who has been a great surprise for the Brewers thus far this year having won 20 games already with the Yankees sending Dick Tidrow to the hill.”

All the windows were open.  Traffic was light as Tuesday night wasn’t a going out night and rush hour was over.

My friend pulled over on the shoulder of the access road.  E.J. Korvettes’ discount department store’s parking lot lights shone across the L.I.E.

I took the foot locker out of the VW squareback.

Ker plunk.

Ker plunk.

Ker plunk.

“Well, I guess you are really going.  What time do you think your arrival in Boston will be?” my friend asked.

“I dunno…about 3 A.M. I guess.”

“For Christsakes be careful,” my friend offered.

And then, abruptly, “How much money do you have?”

“$37,” I answered.

My friend rolled his eyes and pressed a $20 bill into my hand, gave me a hug, and honked the horn while he drove to the next exit to return to Port Washington.

I put my thumb out being careful to stand under the Grand Central Parkway sign’s lights while glancing towards the Eastbound lane of the L.I.E. in the hope I could see the red VW squareback returning to Port Washington.

No such luck.

I wondered if the Brewers were beating the Yankees.

Up the road was my first night in Boston.