Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Initiatives 1100 and 1105 - WTF?

Okay Washington, the time has come. Election day is creeping up on us, and it's time to make a decision. No doubt by now you have begun to see numerous ads supporting and decrying Initiatives 1100 and 1150, which are attempting to privatize Washington's liquor industry.

From the Washington Secretary of State website:

1100: This measure would direct the liquor control board to close all state liquor stores; terminate contracts with private stores selling liquor; and authorize the state to issue licenses that allow spirits (hard liquor) to be sold, distributed, and imported by private parties. It would repeal uniform pricing and certain other requirements governing business operations for distributors and producers of beer and wine. Stores that held contracts to sell spirits could convert to liquor retailer licenses.

1105: This measure would direct the liquor control board to close all state liquor stores and to license qualified private parties as spirits (hard liquor) retailers or distributors. It would require licensees to pay the state a percentage of their first five years of gross spirits sales; repeal certain taxes on retail spirits sales; direct the board to recommend to the legislature a tax to be paid by spirits distributors; and revise other laws concerning spirits.

Some of the wording is fairly straightforward - the initiatives are trying to throw out the state-run liquor stores and allow booze to be sold privately - easy enough. But they both mention repealing and/or revising certain "other laws" and "other regulations." What the hell is that?

The tricky thing about these initiatives is that they impact more than just the state-run liquor stores and the spirits business. The fine print includes changes to the current system that will impact the craft brewers and wineries of Washington as well.

The world of politics is overly-complex (and intentionally so), and at times like these, when important decisions are being made, it is vital to have a firm understand of exactly what you are being asked to decide. Which is why I have called in reinforcements.

If you are as confused as I am about these initiatives, you will probably want to check out some of the articles that have been written by local bloggers intent on getting to the heart of the matter. Check out the sites below for a breakdown of the issues:

  • Beer Blotter has been running a series of articles on the issue since summer.
  • Washington Wine Report has done a 4-part series on the initiatives (this link takes you to Part 4, which, in turn, links back to all of the other posts). Additionally, check out this piece on WA wineries and their positions on the measures.
  • Paul Gregutt argues the pros and cons of both sides. Additionally, this article gives the opinions of several individuals from various sides of the business and the impact that the initiatives would have.
  • Write for Wine has a large (and very helpful) list of resources and community posts that includes several of these, as well as many others.

I am still sifting through the information on both sides, but hopefully these resources will be as helpful to you as they have been to me. And thanks to everyone listed above for taking the time to help break this information down.

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