In 1933, the 18th Amendment was repealed, making it legal to buy and sell alcohol again. In the years and decades following Prohibition, many states set up strict “Alcohol Beverage Control” policies that effectively gave the state distribution rights over alcohol.
Fast forward to 2017. Mississippi is one of 17 “ABC” states remaining. Our state government is in the liquor business. In fact, all booze sold legally in Mississippi flows through the Department of Revenue.
Business is good. You pay the state an excise tax when you buy beer (42.68 cent/gallon), wine (35 cents/gallon), champagne ($1.00/gallon) or something stiffer ($2.50/gallon). Additionally, all alcoholic beverages are subject to a 27.5% markup, the regular sales tax, an “alcohol abuse” tax and freight charges.
While state control may have started as a part of the temperance movement, today it is simply a government run, money-making monopoly. After deducting its operating cost, Mississippi “profited” $83,500,883 off of hard alcohol last year and another $29,761,910 from beer and light wine.
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The state’s role in the alcohol business certainly doesn’t end with distribution. There are restrictions on sale that are inconsistent with our modern economy. Efforts to reform the system are frequently met with opposition from a “strange bedfellows” coalition of established alcohol brewers/distillers, established alcohol retailers, and folks with moral concerns about alcohol.
While alcohol in the Deep South has historically been a sticky political subject (see “If By Whiskey“), Americans for Prosperity believes in the free market. We believe in competition. We believe in consumer choice. We believe adults should be treated like adults.
That’s why we are supporting the passage of legislation (HB 1322 – Rep. Willis/SB 2613 – Sen. Chassaniol) that would allow breweries in Mississippi to sell their own beer at their own place of business to citizens who want it.
These breweries, like Lucky Town, Lazy Magnolia, or Yalobusha, are creating jobs and driving economic growth in our state. If Mississippians can run to the local gas station or belly up to a bar and sip a beer imported from Germany, there’s no reason they shouldn’t be able to support local brewmasters on-site.
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Americans for Prosperity also supports legislative efforts to allow Mississippi consumers to have wine shipped to their door (HB 545 – Rep. Busby) and to allow it to be sold in grocery stores. While some established wine sellers have concerns with these proposals, Mississippi law should not be used to shield business from competition or deny consumers choice.
The flip side of this point is that regulations that restrict the operation of established wine sellers to open more than one location or to serve/sell food should also be relaxed. Free up businesses and let people decide for themselves where and how they want to shop for legal products. (There’s also evidence to suggest that opening up the market ultimately results in more sales for everyone as new consumers are created.)
The deadline to move general bills out of committee is Tuesday, January 31st. If you’re interested in seeing these (or any other bills) move forward, now is the time to pick up the phone and call the Chairman of the committees to which these bills have been referred.
The House bills referenced above have all been referred to Ways & Means under the leadership of Chairman Jeff Smith (601-359-3343). The Senate bills referenced above have all been referred to Finance under the leadership of Chairman Joey Fillingane (601-359-3246).
You can sign up to receive our updates at AmericansforProsperity.org or call or email us at 601-331-3513 or firstname.lastname@example.org to learn more about our activity in Mississippi.