HARTFORD, CT — The legislature’s General Law Committee quietly killed Democratic Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s bill to change Connecticut’s liquor laws Tuesday.
The committee, which technically has until March 14 to approve legislation, decided to end its work early this year. That means the bill that would have allowed liquor, beer, and wine retailers to sell their alcohol below what they paid for it never got called for a vote.
Rep. David Baram, D-Bloomfield, who co-chairs the General Law Committee, said Tuesday that they didn’t have enough support to pass it.
Since at least 2012 Malloy has been on a mission to modernize Connecticut’s liquor laws and make them more friendly for consumers. However, he’s been met with resistance from the package store industry, which doesn’t believe it will be able to compete with large retailers and grocery stores.
Carroll Hughes, executive director of the Connecticut Package Store Association, has argued that changing the law to eliminate the minimum bottle price would cause at least 600 package stores and 10 manufacturers of specialty spirit products to lose their businesses.
“Changes to Connecticut’s outdated minimum bottle laws would benefit consumers by allowing arbitrary prices to be lowered to fair market value and would in turn generate more revenue for the state,” Meg Green, a spokeswoman for the governor, said Tuesday. “Governor Malloy remains committed to fighting on behalf of Connecticut consumers for fairer prices that benefit their bottom lines.”
To that end, Malloy does have language to implement the minimum bottle price legislation as part of his tax package, which will receive a public hearing Thursday in the Finance, Revenue, and Bonding Committee. However, his ability to get that revenue package passed, or language into the budget regarding Connecticut’s liquor laws, remains to be seen.
Meanwhile, a national liquor retailer who agrees with Malloy is trying to win its argument in federal court.
Total Wine & More, which has four stores in Connecticut, filed a lawsuit against the Department of Consumer Protection in August 2016 alleging that the state’s 35-year-old practice of regulating liquor prices constitutes a price-fixing scheme.
The lawsuit is still pending and could go to trial at the earliest in 2018.