Task force looks at ABC laws

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By Sen. Jimmy Higdon


Just about 80 years ago the 21st amendment to our United States Constitution was ratified, repealing the 18th amendment adopted 14 years earlier. 

With this act, Prohibition ended and alcohol was once again legal in our country.
 At the same time, then Kentucky Governor Ruby Laffoon appointed a liquor control committee, the first task force created in the Commonwealth to study alcoholic beverage laws.
In the 75 years since that group met, Kentucky has changed dramatically,  both socially and economically. Regulations have tried to best accommodate changes. Alcoholic beverage control has grown from 20 license types to 84 types in the decades since Prohibition. The resulting patchwork of state and local statutes can sometimes be confusing and obscure.
Many involved in alcoholic beverage production and distribution are calling for changes.
Earlier this year, Governor Beshear appointed the second Task Force on the Study of Kentucky’s Alcoholic Beverage Control Laws in the state’s history.  We are focusing on three areas: licensing simplification and modernization, local option laws and public safety issues. We began meeting in August and hope to have a final report of recommendations to the Governor in mid-January.
We are looking at ways to streamline licenses, making them easier to understand and comply with while keeping them fair and balanced. We are also considering to what extent to allow election day liquor sales, as well as the possibility of re-organizing local option statutes.  Always a top priority, we want to make sure any changes we make will not endanger public safety. We are especially mindful of how changes might affect minor’s access to alcohol.
From the outset, our goal was not to suggest a massive overhaul of ABC laws in the Commonwealth, but to propose subtle changes that we all agree will improve alcoholic beverage control in the state.  Recommendations we hope the full 2013 General Assembly will feel comfortable approving next year.
Issues surrounding alcohol regulations are politically and emotionally charged in this state.  Understandably so. We are often divided on how best to honor and celebrate our rich heritage of producing high-quality alcoholic beverages without also encouraging the social ills that accompany irresponsible use of alcohol. We must be mindful of the different challenges facing local distilleries big and small: Maker’s Mark, Lime Stone Branch in Marion County and Beam Booker Noe plant, Heaven Hill, 1792 Barton’s and Willett Distillery in Nelson County.
I am sensitive to concerns on all sides of these issues and am confident we will find ways to keep our distilleries, breweries, wineries and other businesses thriving while maintaining the peaceful sense of hard-working, up-standing community we enjoy here in the Bluegrass.
In the meantime, feel free to contact me directly with any questions, concerns or input you have about ABC laws or any other issue affecting you.  You can reach my office in Frankfort at 502-564-8100, my home in Lebanon at 270-692-6945, or e-mail me at jimmy.higdon@lrc.ky.gov.
I’ll keep you posted on the work of the task force.