By Vinnie Clubb, Piedmont, Missouri
As a child who grew up with one alcoholic parent, who was luckily “freed” from addiction, I watch changes to liquor laws closely as many could lead to more consumption, more underage drinking and more DUIs.
It is not unusual to see legislation in Missouri’s Capitol meant to change the state’s liquor laws. Typically, more than one dozen liquor bills are filed each year in the Missouri house and senate. Typically, these bills deal with how or where liquor is advertised, sold or shipped.
As Rep. Jean Evans stated in a hearing last year, “Alcohol is not sneakers, and so it is tightly regulated.”
Missouri has a three-tier system for alcohol, for those that make, distribute and sell it. Often, changes proposed in the Missouri General Assembly tend to chip away at that structure so one portion of the supply chain can gain a bit more of the action.
Most particularly troubling this year is a blast from the past: legislation regarding advertising, coupons and rewards programs for discounted intoxicating liquor. The legislation was likely filed on behalf of a company called “Total Wine” which is based in Maryland. This legislation seeks to change the way that liquor is advertised and sold in the state, which will likely increase consumption and in return, hurting Missouri families and businesses along the way.
Total Wine is a liquor mega-store owned by David Trone. Total Wine’s owner is a progressive Democrat who is constantly running for office back home in Maryland and gets deeply involved in every state he wants to expand his empire.
Per an op-ed published by Missouri Times last year, the Wall Street Journal featured a story on Trone in 2015, calling him a “self-described progressive” that says that he “love[s] business, but [politics is] the only place you can move the needle.” In 2016, Trone spent $13 million of his own funds and lost a congressional race in Maryland. On social issues, Trone is pro-abortion and a defender of Planned Parenthood. Trone is no stranger to political contributions. In his home state, Total Wine paid a $60,000 settlement for making illegal campaign contributions. He’s now considering running for office again this year.
In 2017, Gov. Rick Scott vetoed legislation sent to his desk that would have also increased alcohol consumption in his state. “I’ve had family members that have had the challenge of alcoholism and it concerns me,” said the governor in a written statement. Scott’s biological father and brother are both alcoholics.
I realize it is probably old-fashioned to think that liquor should be regulated or at least kept in check. But there is something about Total Wine asking legislators to make laws that perfectly fit in their business model a bit troubling. In addition, some of the legislators that voted in Total’s favor last year received checks from the Trone family from Maryland after the legislative session. Is that a coincidence?
Missouri’s liquor laws are working and constituents are not asking for a change. I encourage our legislators to shelf this legislation and move on to priorities that actually fit Missouri’s values.