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This week from Charleston

By Staff | Mar 13, 2015

This last week saw significant movement of one bill that will impact Jefferson County. The craft distillery bill, SB 574, has now passed the Senate and the House and only needs the Governor’s signature. I was the lead sponsor of a different House version, HB 2957. The bill will aid all distilleries in West Virginia, but, most importantly, it will directly affect Bloomery Distillery. While the bill is fairly technical, it essentially does two things: it lowers the “market zone” tax and “bailment” fees. Market zone taxes are paid by distilleries to liquor stores (via the state) because distilleries are considered to be competition to the retailers who have paid for 10-year licenses. While in theory this may be true, it makes no sense. If, for example, Bloomery’s payments last year of over $40,000 to the liquor stores in the market zone are projected out over the ten years of the license, Bloomery itself would be paying for more than 50 percent of the over $700,000 that the local licensees paid. This is ‘free’ money for the liquor stores, and is difficult to justify, especially when the market zone liquor stores are not even required to carry Bloomery’s products.

The second thing the bill does is reduce the amount paid to the state for the “privilege” of selling directly from the distillery. This is called bailment. Because, by law, the state is the wholesaler for all spirits, Bloomery has to pay the state for the state to store its products in its warehouse even though the product never leaves the hands of Bloomery. If this sounds confusing and absurd, it’s because it is. The state’s regulatory scheme for beer, wine and spirits is a Jenga game that requires thought and balancing keeping it constitutional and functional. I hope that readers will sign onto a petition to the Governor asking him to sign the distillery bill. It can be found at my website: www.delegateskinner.org. I will deliver it early next week.

Unfortunately, barring something happening last minute, the “brunch bill,” SB 42 is dead. Although the Senate passed the Senate unanimously 34-0, it did not make it onto an agenda. Reportedly, the Speaker is opposed to bill and does not favor loosening restriction on alcohol sales. In fact, he voted against the craft distillery bill. We are still working for a solution, but hope is dimming.

Saturday is the last day of the regular session. I am anxious to get home and look forward to see you all soon.