Lawmakers consider beer, alcohol bills
BRECKENRIDGE – Seven alcohol-related deaths among college students in the past year have inspired state politicians to introduce an array of bills designed to address that and other issues related to the industry.State Rep. Gary Lindstrom’s “keg bill,” House Bill 1077, is among them, and is expected to be heard in the Senate this week. The bill, which passed through the House last Monday, has sparked some controversy, primarily because people don’t understand it, Lindstrom said.”It’s not intended to stop binge drinking – you would drown before you’d binge drink on beer,” the Summit County Democrat said. “It’s not intended to stop underage drinking. It’s intended to give law enforcement the ability to track kegs to find out who’s buying alcohol for children. It’s an investigation tool, not social engineering.”The beer industry actively opposes the bill, saying it’s one more regulation with which it would be saddled.As written, the bill would require kegs to bear identification tags, and if they aren’t returned to the liquor store from which they were purchased in 14 days, the store must report the keg missing and the tag number would be recorded in a state database.If the keg is later recovered at a teen party, for instance, the tag would allow law enforcement to determine who bought the keg for the minors. People who buy kegs for their own use, however, wouldn’t have to worry about keeping it longer than 14 days.Another alcohol-related bill Lindstrom supports is allowing liquor stores to stay open on Sunday. That bill, sponsored by Sen. Jennifer Veiga, a Denver Democrat, would remove Prohibition-era laws that ban the Sunday sales of liquor, full-strength beer and wine. That bill has been laid over – postponed – for now.”Sunday closing laws are silly,” Lindstrom said. “Colorado is one of a few states left that have laws that say you can’t buy cars or alcohol on Sundays. People come up from Denver and from out of state and expect to buy booze. That’s not the case.”Many states not only allow the sale of alcohol on Sundays, but even offer it in grocery stores.Lindstrom said he’s received about four phone calls from liquor store owners in opposition to the bill.
Among the arguments against it is that big-box retailers could decide to include alcohol sales among their retail mix and make it more difficult for mom-and-pop stores to survive.”It’s a good argument, but that’s true with the guy who owns a shoe store, too,” Lindstrom said. “It’s pricing. People will go where they pay the lowest price.”Another argument is that store owners and employees won’t get to have a day off.”They say that’s the one day they get off,” Lindstrom said. “I’ve told a couple of them, ‘I give you permission to take off any day of the week you want. You can take Tuesday. You can take Wednesday. You can take Thursday. I’ll give you a note.”Another bill wending its way through the Senate is one that would make it illegal to have an open container in a vehicle. The House Transportation Committee passed that bill earlier this month.The new “cork-it” laws that permit people to take home unfinished bottles of wine from restaurants, however, would not be affected by the law.Lindstrom is also supporting a bill that would ban so-called alcohol without liquid – AWOL – inhalers.The user pours liquor into a special capsule that is then plugged into an oxygen generator and inhaled. The alcoholic gas goes straight into the bloodstream to give users an instant high. A fifth bill would increase the penalty for buying alcohol for minors, bringing it from a Class 2 misdemeanor to a Class 1 misdemeanor. Other unrelated bills Lindstrom is sponsoring include House Bill 1087 that would add curriculum at the secondary education level addressing foreign countries and cultures, and House Bill 1229 that would make it legal for towns and counties to set rental fees on affordable housing they own or operate.”I’m not saying nobody does it,” Lindstrom said with a laugh. “The counties and towns all do it. I’m just making it legal.”Jane Stebbins can be reached at (970) 668-3998, ext. 228, or email@example.com.
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