Last week, the Study Committee on Alcohol Beverages Enforcement met for the third time. The Committee heard from Department of Revenue (DOR) Secretary Rick Chandler on agency enforcement and Donovan Borvan a former executive director of the Illinois Liquor Control Commission then discussed various drafts being considered by the study committee.
Chandler told the committee that in response to their concerns DOR would put into place a new group dedicated to alcohol and tobacco enforcement consisting of up to 10 agents. The revised structure at the agency would include clarification for municipalities on how to deal with a number of issues where there may need to be clarity on enforcement. When asked, Chandler said he believed they currently had a sufficient staff to do enforcement, but some committee members pushed back saying that current staff levels combined with the agency’s approach (responding to reported infractions versus actively looking for them) would do little to address the current lack of enforcement of Wisconsin’s alcohol laws. It should be noted that there is a wide variety of alcohol related interests on the committee – some who view lack of enforcement as a large issue, some who believe it’s a minor issue, and some who just want better clarification of state law.
Borvan followed Chandler with a presentation on the problems he found preventing the flow of untaxed liquor into the state of Illinois during his time at the Illinois Liquor Control Commission. Committee members asked about how Illinois attempted to address it, and considered whether Wisconsin should follow suit with a more aggressive approach toward out of state shippers who don’t follow the state’s tax laws. Those tactics included potentially charging felony violations coupled with extensive fines for out of state shippers who refuse to comply after multiple warnings.
The committee then entered into discussions on potential legislation including internet enforcement ideas, a special event/use license or permit to address the issue of “wedding barns” and how they can legally serve alcohol in Wisconsin while remaining in compliance with the three-tier system, and legislation to roll back the informal opinion from Wisconsin’s Department of Justice allowing wineries to sell beer.
The committee expects to continue these discussions on the bill drafts in mid-November and again in December.