July 19, 2008 in HandleX

More states repealing liquor laws

Betsy Z. Russell Staff writer
 

The Idaho Legislature’s repeal this year of the ban on Election Day liquor sales – doing away with a 1939 law that stemmed from worries about voters being plied with liquor to skew their political judgment – wasn’t the only Prohibition-era liquor law to be repealed this year.

According to Stateline.org, it’s something of a trend across the country. Colorado has just approved Sunday liquor sales, making it the 35th state to do so and the 13th since 2002. Virginia repealed an obscure state law banning restaurants from mixing liquor with wine or beer. And a 1933 Wisconsin law that prohibited municipal officials from selling products or services to bars or other holders of liquor licenses was repealed, after a local elected official there was forced to resign his position after it came out that his business sold vacuum cleaners to pubs and restaurants.

David Wojnar, vice president for state government relations with the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States, which lobbies on behalf of the liquor industry, told Stateline.org, “People’s attitudes are maturing.” Wojnar said many state liquor laws are “vestiges of Prohibition” that hurt businesses and serve little modern purpose.

One state, however, has gone in something of the other direction. Utah, where Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr. has been pushing for “greater normalcy” in liquor laws, passed a law to increase the alcohol in a standard cocktail from 1 to 1.5 ounces, but as a trade-off, also tightened another liquor restriction, banning the sale of wine coolers in grocery stores.

Those fax-spams are illegal

Idaho Attorney General Lawrence Wasden has obtained consent judgments against two out-of-state companies for sending unsolicited faxes to Idahoans, including a Florida company, Sunstar Travel and Tours Inc., that allegedly sent 63 unsolicited faxes to Idaho consumers touting travel deals. The other was a Puyallup, Wash., company, Hard Money Placement Inc., that allegedly faxed 25 unsolicited ads to Idahoans.

Among the Idaho fax numbers to receive the Puyallup company’s mortgage loan pitch was – whoops – the Idaho Attorney General’s office.

Idaho’s Unsolicited Fax Law bans the faxing of commercial advertisements to anyone who does not have an established business relationship with the sender. There’s also a federal law that requires fax advertisers to include header information and a toll-free “opt-out” telephone number on all faxed ads.

“My office receives, on average, 100 unsolicited fax advertising complaints or more each month and we do our best to enforce Idaho’s statute prohibiting such advertising,” Wasden said. “Since January, we have sued five businesses suspected of sending more than 325 unsolicited fax advertisements into Idaho.”

Both the Florida and Puyallup companies face civil penalties that are being held in abeyance pending their compliance with the consent judgment, which orders them to stop sending unsolicited faxes into Idaho and reimburse the Attorney General’s costs and fees. For the Florida firm it’s $15,000, and for the Washington company that fax-spammed the Attorney General’s office, it’s $75,000.

Wasden said his office welcomes unsolicited fax ad complaints from Idaho consumers, who can call toll-free (800) 432-3545.

But one area’s still doing well …

Despite uncertain economic times, it appears that one state revenue source in Idaho is clipping along just fine: People still are buying lottery tickets. “For us here, we have maintained the kind of sales levels that we’ve forecasted,” said Idaho Lottery Director Jeff Anderson.

The annual “dividend” – the amount of lottery proceeds raised for Idaho schools and a state building fund – hit a record of just a hair under $35 million this year, up from last year’s record $34 million.

Asked what the correlation is between lottery ticket sales and the economy, Anderson said it varies from state to state. “Some jurisdictions are doing better than that, others are not, and typically the ones that are not doing as well are in states where citizens have other options for gaming entertainment, whether it be tribal casinos, riverboats, slot machines, card rooms, that kind of stuff. So in Idaho we’re kind of isolated in the sense that we don’t have a lot of casino action going on, and people who enjoy the type of entertainment that we provide, it’s the only game in town.”

He added, “For the state, every play pays, whether you’re a winner or a nonwinner.”

Since it started in 1989, the state lottery has raised $402 million for public schools and state buildings, which divide the dividends down the middle.

Lottery players in Idaho also have benefited from something of a stroke of luck in the past year, with 15 “Match 5” jackpot winners in the multistate Powerball game, when Idaho’s share of the game statistically should have yielded only seven winners. Said Anderson, “It’s just how statistics work – it’s the luck of the draw, if you will.”

Betsy Z. Russell can be reached toll-free at (866) 336-2854 or bzrussell@gmail.com. For more news from Boise, see her Web log at www.spokesman review.com/boise.


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