The Study Committee on Alcohol Beverages Enforcement met for the first time on July 25, 2018. The committee, chaired by Rep. Rob Swearingen (R-Rhinelander) and Sen. Dan Feyen (R-Fond du Lac), is tasked with reviewing the structure and enforcement of Wisconsin’s alcohol regulation efforts within the Department of Revenue (DOR).
The study committee comes after a late-in-session effort by Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald (R-Juneau) for an “alcohol czar” bill that added a new office to oversee alcohol enforcement. In addition to the alcohol czar piece, there were unresolved issues in the bill related to winery hours, special use permits (wedding barns), beer being served in wineries, and a special carve out for Kohler and their distillery. Swearingen said those issues would be addressed by the study committee.
The first presentation at the July meeting was from John Bodnovich, Executive Director of Alcohol Beverage Licenses, a nationwide membership group. Bodnovich gave a national overview of how enforcement works across the country as well as how the market is changing. Bodnovich stated that, like Wisconsin, all 50 states have some form of three-tier system regulating producers, wholesalers, and retailers. The presentation did not relate specifically to the challenges Wisconsin faces but pointed out that Wisconsin is an “outlier” when it comes to enforcement mechanisms. According to Bodnovich, the alcohol beverage industry’s economic impact in Wisconsin is $7.92 billion and contributes to almost 60,000 jobs and $446 million in state and local taxes.
The second speaker was DOR Secretary Rick Chandler. Chandler discussed how DOR alcohol beverage enforcement is structured and the statues surrounding the three-tier system (Wis. Stat. § 125). Chandler answered many questions from committee members regarding DOR’s role and effectiveness in enforcement.
The committee said they would likely meet three to four times. The next meeting is Wednesday, Aug. 22.