The N.C. House has stripped a provision in Senate Bill 155 that would have allowed North Carolina distilleries to sell directly to consumers, via the internet.

Rep. Pat Hurley, R-Randolph, proposed the amendment to remove that part of the bill, which passed the House on Tuesday evening and the Senate Wednesday night.

S.B. 155, among other things, clears the way for N.C. craft distillers to sell five bottles to customers each year, instead of the current one, and, contingent on local approval, allows restaurants and retail stores to begin selling alcohol Sunday at 10 a.m., as opposed to noon.

Hurley’s amendment, which was adopted, was misguided. It was based on bad information, a personal animus toward alcohol, and a general lack of knowledge about the sale of online liquor.

Hurley proposed the amendment, but, as the vote indicates, 59 of her colleagues agree that giving North Carolina distillers a better chance to grow their business and to pad state coffers is a bad idea.

Rep. James Boles, R-Moore, tried and failed to remove the retail aspect from the bill allowing Sunday sales in restaurants to start at 10 a.m. He referred to the move toward loosening rules on alcohol sales as an issue of public safety and flat-out said the bill’s proponents are taking the “control” out of the Alcoholic Beverage Control commission.

Just want champions of liberty and the free market want to hear, right?

The C in ABC means something else altogether, he said.

It has “turned into consumption, turned into convenience, and now it’s turned into cash.”

This isn’t even close to the truth.

Because of the decision to kill distiller-to-consumer sales, says one North Carolina distiller, the state, according to projections, will miss out on $4,000 in sales and excise taxes in 2017.

That’s one distiller. North Carolina now has almost 40 distilleries producing and selling liquor. More are coming.

That lost revenue goes elsewhere. North Carolina distillers now sell their products online, but they do so, for example, using an out-of-state distributor.

The distillers still get paid. The state and localities don’t.

The North Carolina distiller says 20 percent to 30 percent of visitors to that distillery come from places other than North Carolina, and rules prevent them from carrying bottles on an airplane. The distillery can’t ship the bottles, so the state, in effect, has so far lost $10,000 to $15,000 in excise taxes, the distiller says.

As Carolina Journal reported this week, the North Carolina excise tax on distilled spirits is the fifth-highest in the country, the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States says.

“Consumers pay an average state excise tax of $14.66 per 750 milliliter bottle of 80-proof liquor. The North Carolina liquor tax was ranked as the eighth-highest in a study last year — at $12.48 — but rose three spots in the 2017 study.”

A handful of legislators, Rep. Jon Hardister, R-Guilford, and Rep. John Bradford, R-Mecklenburg, chief among them, tried in vain to persuade amendment proponents to listen to reason and to accept reality.

Some lawmakers, though, make a habit of demonizing liquor, wrongly equating consumption of spirits with sin and a faltering faith. They worry about a proliferation in underage drinking, about fake IDs and fraudulent signatures. The federal rules for shipping and receiving alcohol are voluminous and exceedingly stringent, requiring forms, receipts, and signatures.

North Carolina wineries can sell directly to consumers, but, as Hurley said Tuesday, wine is different. A bottle includes much less alcohol, she said. That’s true. But the argument, if not silly, is flawed because, well, alcohol is alcohol. People tend to drink more beer and wine in a sitting, because the hops and fruit effectively mask the pure alcohol.

A glass of wine, a pint of beer, and a shot of liquor contain a similar amount of alcohol by volume.

So, people who sit down with beer and wine tend to drink more. Further, North Carolina distillers are making “craft” spirits, which are typically much more expensive than a mass produced jug-o-whiskey and, of course, taste much better. Craft spirits are made to sip, to savor. To appreciate. Kids won’t rush to their cell phones to order a $50 bottle of N.C. single malt whiskey.

They just won’t.

Alcohol isn’t benign by any stretch. Its demons have probably touched us all, including me.

But as Bradford so poignantly said Tuesday, S.B. 155 bill isn’t only about alcohol.

“Alcohol’s not always about drinking,” he said. “Sometimes it’s about the craft.”

It’s about jobs and the economy. It’s about entrepreneurship and innovation. It’s about freedom of choice and the freedom to live one’s life — within the law — as he or she sees fit.

North Carolina has taken the lead toward quenching a teeming national thirst for craft beer and liquor. They’ve done this despite our state’s cadre of restrictive Prohibition-era rules and regulations.  

They’ve done this in spite of a group of lawmakers who, rather than helping the state grow and prosper, prefer to preach to us and to foist upon us their perception of morality and righteousness.

Put more plainly, it’s the same old not-so-veiled attempt to establish a state religion in North Carolina. To make Sundays sacrosanct.

I was raised in the Catholic Church in Pittsburgh. We often went to mass on Saturday night so we could get up early Sunday and tailgate outside Three Rivers Stadium. With an ice cold Iron City.

But none of that makes me any less Christian, and any such implication is among the highest of insults.