Tobacco License Bill Signed by Governor

Assembly Bill 628/Senate Bill 528, authored by Rep. Evan Goyke (D-Milwaukee) and Sen. Alberta Darling (R-River Hills) makes changes to the circumstances and procedures under which the city of Milwaukee can suspend, revoke, or refuse to renew a cigarette and tobacco products retailer license.

The legislation passed the Senate and the Assembly via voice votes and was signed by Governor Scott Walker on March 23, 2016 as 2015 Wisconsin Act 275.

Under the amended bill, Milwaukee may suspend, revoke, or refuse to renew a cigarette and tobacco products retailer license if the retailer does any of the following: 1) violates certain restrictions relating to the sale of cigarettes and tobacco; 2) keeps premises that are disorderly, riotous, indecent, or improper; 3) has knowingly permitted criminal behavior on the premises; 4) has been convicted of manufacturing, distributing, or delivering, or possessing with the intent to manufacture, distribute, or deliver, a controlled substance; or 5) knowingly allows another person on the licensed premises to manufacture, distribute, or deliver, or possess with the intent to manufacture, distribute, or deliver, a controlled substance.

Additionally, the bill establishes a hearing procedure under which Milwaukee can suspend the license if enough evidence is found to do so. At a public hearing on the bill, supporters expressed that the legislation is needed to curb a small number of disorderly tobacco establishments on the near west side of Milwaukee that have received over 300 calls from police in three years. Those in favor of the legislation say that curbing this disruptive behavior of a few establishments, will help the area be open to better economic growth and development opportunities.

The bill would bring tobacco licensing procedures closer in line with alcohol licensing procedures in that it gives Milwaukee the legal power to investigate and punish disruptive establishments.