Feb. 1, 2004
OF 2003: If you'd like to see a great cartoon retrospective
from our Bill McLemore, click here.
Two ways to look
SC Statehouse Report
1 , 2004 - - Whenever someone from outside South Carolina
sidles up to a bar here to get a liquor drink, they seem to
never fail to make a comment:
"You use those little bottles from airplanes to make
Yes, South Carolina is number one in the nation in using
minibottles instead of big bottles in bars and restaurants.
That's because it's the only state that requires use of the
many, it seems kind of silly. Others complain drinks from
minibottles are stronger than in places that have "free-pour"
liquor. Others dispute that.
Minibottle proponents, however, claim a multitude of benefits
from using the little bottles. Among other things, they say
using minibottles ensures people will get a certain amount
of liquor in a drink and will be certain of the brand in the
drink. They also say the state benefits because it is easier
from a quality control perspective to collect minibottle taxes
from distributors instead making it part of drink sales.
For months, the SC Senate has been sitting on a bill that
would let voters decide what they wanted to do about minibottles.
Voters must decide because the state constitution requires
bar drinks to come from bottles that are two ounces or less.
So to change the law, the constitution has to change, which
means voters have to amend the constitution.
Last week, liquor wholesalers, some restaurateurs and others
ran a big ad in a Columbia newspaper to tout a study that
claims the state would lose nearly $6 million annually if
it got rid of minibottles.
The "Coalition for the Responsible Consumption of Alcohol"
said it ran the ad to draw attention to the steady stream
of revenue brought in by taxing minibottles 25 cents per bottle.
Contrary to popular notion, coalition members weren't fighting
the keep minibottles because it generated more revenue, said
member Bill Tovell of Columbia. In fact, there's no greater
profit in minibottle liquor sales than from big bottle sales,
But he said changing the way the tax is collected - - at
the point of purchase (a bar) - - would erode the state's
ability to collect the tax effectively. Additionally by adding
a sales tax to make up for the lost revenue, the price of
drinks may rise.
Tovell, president and CEO of the state's largest liquor wholesaler,
said when Florida changed liquor drink tax collections to
the point of purchase a few years ago, the state lost millions
in revenue - - something South Carolina can't afford in a
"I'm not worried about losing any revenue," said
state economist Bill Gillespie. He said a plan to boost sales
taxes by 5 percent on drinks to make up for minibottle revenue
losses would essentially start out revenue neutral - - it
wouldn't cost the state $6 million a year, according to an
analysis by his office.
But over time with inflation, the state would start generating
more revenue because sales taxes were based on percentages,
while the current minibottle tax was a fee not indexed for
Insiders say the Senate may take up the minibottle legislation
again in the coming week, although a filibuster by Sen. Phil
Leventis, D-Sumter, may continue. Leventis says he wants members
to determine how the law would change - - not just allow voters
to say they wanted to change the constitution without a specific
policy for them to consider.
If the dueling revenue studies are a wash, the issue seems
to get down to a matter of convenience and preference.
For me, it's pretty simple: I'm sticking to beer.
This week's cartoon by our Bill McLemore:
How you can subscribe to the full edition
of the report
The above version of S.C. Statehouse Report is the
free edition. Our paid version, which costs about $100 per
month, offer a weekly legislative forecast packed with information
that can keep you and your business on the cutting edge.
Notes veteran lawmaker Sen. Glenn McConnell: "Statehouse
Report gives an inside practical report of weekly problems
with and progress of legislation. It reviews the whole landscape."
In each issue of Statehouse Report, you'll get::
Hot issue -- an early peek at weekly commentary
on something really big. Last year, we continually beat
other news organizations in finding major trends in issues,
from teacher and budget cuts to wetlands proposals.
Agenda -- a weekly forecast of the coming week's
Radar Screen -- a behind-the-scenes look at what's
really going on in the General Assembly
McLemore's World -- an early view of our respected
cartoonist Bill McLemore.
Tally Sheet -- a weekly review of all of the new
bills introduced in the legislature in everyday language
Scorecard -- A Thumbs Up and Thumbs Down of major
political/policy events for the week.
Calendar -- a weekly list of major meetings for
the House, Senate and state agencies.
Megaphone -- a quote of the week that you'll find
To learn more about subscriptions, contact account manager
Rebecca Gray at: email@example.com