Will Malloy declare victory on liquor, or fight?
In a bipartisan committee vote Tuesday, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy prevailed on lifting the ban on Sunday liquor sales, but fell short of the sweeping reforms he proposed in January on price and competition.
The question now is will Malloy declare victory and move on, or will he direct his administration to continue lobbying for revisions as the bill moves to a vote in the House of Representatives?
“I think we do both,” said Roy Occhiogrosso, the governor’s senior adviser. “I think we declare victory, and we continue working on it.”
On a 15-3 vote, the General Law Committee approved legislative language that did not change since last week, when the Democratic co-chairmen, Rep. Joseph Taborsak of Danbury and Sen. Paul Doyle of Wethersfield, said they had reached a bipartisan consensus.
The governor’s office was unable to push the committee further.
On Tuesday, Democrats and Republicans publicly acknowledged that the governor wanted a bill that removed the state’s minimum pricing rules and opened the industry to new competition.
“I think much of this is because the governor weighed in,” said Sen. John Kissel, R-Enfield.
Last year, only two committee members favored allowing Sunday sales, and the committee’s leadership was opposed to even debating the issue in 2012. At Malloy’s insistence, Sunday sales passed with overwhelming support.
The bill will allow the retail sales of beer, wine and spirits from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Sundays. Retail hours will remain unchanged on the other six days, when no beer, wine or spirits can be sold after 9 p.m.
No one will be allowed to own more than three package stores, up from the two in current law. But that is short of Malloy’s original limit of nine in a bill he proposed in January or six in a revision he released in February.
Minimum prices largely will remain intact with one notable exception: Retailers can sell one item a month for 10 percent below the cost of acquisition, while Malloy’s most recent proposal was for five items.
Taborsak said the committee tried to help consumers with more convenient hours and some price competition, while protecting a retail industry still dominated by small business.
“I think we struck that balance,” Taborsak said. “We put a bill before you that is pro-small business and pro-consumer.”
The bill also creates a study to compare Connecticut’s laws on alcohol taxes and minimum pricing with other states’ laws, leaving open the possibility of more changes next year.
Three committee members voted no: Reps. Buddy Altobello, D-Meriden, Anthony D’Amelio, R-Waterbury, and Frank Nicastro, D-Bristol.
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