Sens. Joyce Waddell, D-Mecklenburg, and Andy Wells, R-Catawba, have filed legislation that would take a big step toward reforming the alcohol control system in North Carolina.
The bill is based on recommendations by the N.C. Program Evaluation Division, which presented a report — “Changing how North Carolina Controls Liquor Sales has Operational, Regulatory, and Financial Ramifications” — to the Joint Legislative Program Evaluation Oversight Committee on Feb. 11.
The measure, Senate Bill 87, would require the merger of N.C. Alcoholic Beverage Control Commission systems in a county with two or more ABC systems.
For instance, Rockingham County, which has about 90,000 residents, has three ABC boards. Brunswick County, home to myriad beach communities, has nine boards. Wake and Mecklenburg counties, which have by far the largest populations in North Carolina, each has one.
North Carolina is one of 17 remaining alcohol control states in the country and may well be the most restrictive. It’s the only state giving local boards control over what’s on the shelves.
The bill also would repeal the purchase-transportation permit requirement for spirituous liquor, a decades-old rule originally established to deter bootlegging. It also would allow local governments the option of operating ABC stores on Sunday and allow the purchase of individual bottles when placing a special order of spirituous liquor — as opposed to a case — and allow spirituous liquor tastings at ABC stores. It also would require the N.C. ABC to submit a quarterly report on its process for obtaining a contract for state warehouse services.
The state auditor in August found that poor contract administration by the N.C. ABC related to warehousing liquor cost North Carolina taxpayers at least $11.3 million over 13 years. Unused warehouse space potentially cost the state $2.1 million over seven years, and a lack of monitoring left the state underpaid by at least $297,537 over two years.
The senators filed S.B. 87 on Feb. 19, and it was referred to the Committee on Rules and Operations of the Senate the next day.