Nebraska Policymakers Overturn State Supreme Court Ruling on Alcopops

AlcopopsLast month the Nebraska Supreme Court ruled that flavored malt beverages, also known as alcopops, are distilled spirits and should be classified and taxed as such, instead of the beer tax rate the state has been using. The ruling meant 12 times more alcopops tax revenue for the budget-beleaguered state, and less access to alcopops for youth, whom producers target with these products.

A ruling like that should have policymakers celebrating, wouldn’t you think? After all, their responsibility is to serve the health and welfare of the public they represent, along with keeping a balanced budget for the state. Or is it? Just one month after the ruling, state legislators effectively overturned the Nebraska Supreme Court’s decision with LB 824. Nebraska Governor Dave Heineman approved the legislation April 6. The new law keeps the status quo intact: taxing alcopops at the beer rate and keeping the products available wherever beer is sold.
LB 824 is also a slap in the face to public health advocates who have been fighting for more sensible regulation of these dangerous products for years. Diane Riibe, Executive Director of the nonprofit Project Extra Mile, said of the bill: "In a day where our state is facing a budget shortfall in the millions, giving any industry a tax break seems most unwise, especially when that tax break is on a product that harms our children. The Legislature voted to protect business interests over kids. It's an extremely sad day for our children. We hope for a day when our policy makers are ready to have a real and valid conversation about the public health of ourchildren."
It's no surprise to see certain legislators going out of their way to please the powerful alcohol industry lobby at the expense of the communities they are supposed to represent. However, we don't often see a legislature deliberately override the state supreme court in order to make alcohol companies happy. Welcome to the Doghouse, Nebraska Legislature and Governor Heineman.

Brazil Bill Forcing World Cup Alcohol Sales Progresses

WCBrasilIn Brazil, where FIFA has demanded that the sovereign nation change its laws to allow alcohol sales during the 2014 World Cup, the Congressional commission has voted in favor of a bill that forces the sale of alcohol at World Cup matches. The vote comes after widespread outcry over FIFA’s attempts to dictate the reversal of public-safety laws prohibiting the sale of alcoholic beverages in soccer stadiums, in the name of increased profits for FIFA and one of its main sponsors, Anheuser-Busch InBev. "FIFA wants to have powers in Brazil which it is not entitled to, as a private company,” stated federal congressman and former World Cup-winning striker Romario de Souza Faria. Now that the bill has been approved by committee, it must be passed by the lower house and the senate before before being signed into law. Click here for Alcohol Justice's press release.

New Hampshire Bill Could Allow Private Spirits Sales

NewHampshireIn New Hampshire, state representatives are preparing to vote on a bill that could allow spirits to be sold from non-state retailers, when they are currently only available from state liquor stores. House Bill 1251, supported by Big Alcohol and many House Republicans, would dramatically expand the retail distribution on liquor, allowing it to be sold in every grocery and convenience store in the state - reversing precautions that New Hampshire has put in place to protect its residents, especially youth. Such precautions are particularly important in today’s liquor market, where candy-flavored, supersized alcopops with as much as 5 drinks per serving abound.  "For some young person to get a hold of these is just that much more concerning to us at stores that we don't control," said Joseph Mollica, chair of the liquor commission. Click here to take action on alcohol policy advocate New Future's website.


Alcohol Ad Restrictions Advance in Massachusetts

coors light train
Massachusetts organizers have recently seen success in their fight to eliminate alcohol advertising from public property. House Bill 851, which would ban alcohol advertising on all state-owned property, advanced from initial committee consideration to the Ways and Means Committee in December 2011. In January, the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) announced that advertising for alcohol will no longer be allowed on any MBTA property as of July 1. The MBTA decision affects subway cars, trains, buses, and stations, which are currently saturated in advertisements for beer and spirits. These important moves come after years of scrutiny and advocacy from local community groups, including the Allston-Brighton Substance Abuse Task Force and Supporting an Alcohol-Free Environment in Massachusetts (SAFE MA).  Alcohol Justice applauds the steps that Massachusetts is taking to improve the public health. Click here to find out more. Click here to send an action alert to support MA HB 851.