Obenshain’s ABC bill rejected

Brent Finnegan -- January 30th, 2009

Sen. Mark Obenshain’s bill that would have privatized Virginia’s Alcoholic Beverage Control stores was killed in the Senate Committee on Rehabilitation and Social Services today. In a statement released on Facebook this evening, Obenshain said:

… although we lost a skirmish today, this fight is not over. This proposal has is resonating with people across the Commonwealth; Democrats and Republicans alike know that this is not a legitimate role for state government. I look forward to coming back next year with a bill strengthened by input from around my district and around the Commonwealth.

91 Responses to “Obenshain’s ABC bill rejected”

  1. In Wisconsin and in a lot of other states it is legal to sell any of it in grocery stores. This reduces the “liquor store on every corner” phenomenon big time.

  2. Lowell says:

    I wonder Barkley, whether such thinking will ever gain any support among the current folks who are elected to represent us?

  3. Lowell,

    Well, heck, we already let wine and beer be sold in grocery stores. What is all that big of a deal about adding hard stuff?

  4. Bubby says:

    The big deal is that while good-old Wisconsin has some of the lowest liquor prices in the U.S. and alcohol outlets everywhere it also has the nations highest binge drinking rates, nearly twice the teen alcohol arrest rate of Virginia, and the highest drunk driving rate in the nation – 26% of all drivers over the age of 18. 42,000 cheese heads were arrested for drunk driving in 2007.

    So when Senator Obenshain tells you that opening up the retail alcohol market to the private sector will make the Commonwealth of Virginia lots of money, ask him about the costs. Ask him about Wisconsin.

  5. seth says:

    i think that’s perhaps a good point, but i also think it would be helpful to ask whether the culture in wisconnsin drives the prevalence of cheap alcohol or if it’s the cheap alcohol that compels people to be drunks in and of itself. i have a feeling that if you look at other factors (unemployment being one that jumps to mind right away) you’d likely gain some addtional insight into why the culture in wisconnsin (with respect to alcohol) is so much different than it is here.

  6. Brian M says:

    Whenever I have presented the issue of easier access of alcohol to those under 21 if the Commonwealth no longer controlled sales, I have been lambasted. Generally I am told that since it is still against the law to sell to someone under 21, then there would be no increase. That always seemed so ignorant to me.

    I don’t actually feel that there should be a legal drinking age in the United States. I haven’t done all the research, but if a 17 year old learned how to drink responsibly before he left home then he would be much less likely to binge drink when he went to school.

    Why is America so stuck on Victorian ideals for the masses? (but I digress)

  7. Lowell says:


    When I was a young man, the drinking age was 18. The thinking at the time the age was raised was that it would reduce alcohol related teen highway deaths. States had a choice as to whether to raise the drinking age, or in effect lose all federal highway funding.

    A number of measures were taken around the same time so it’s rather hard to pin down what caused the reduction in said highway deaths.

    This is a good conversation folks, thank you.

    One thought I’d like to toss into the mix, is that if you are eighteen in the United States, you are old enough to fight and perhaps die for your country in war, but you are not considered mature enough to drink a beer…

  8. Bubby says:

    Our state budget is already stretched thin, so as Gene Hart has noted we don’t even have the State Troopers we should have, and the teachers we need, but we do have $140,000,000/yr. for inheritance tax relief for the 800 richest Virginians…thanks to guys like Sen. Mark Obenshain.

    Until proven otherwise, any revenues realized by handing over the state alcohol franchise to his contributors should reasonably be assumed to be earmarked for the wealthiest and best connected Virginians. You know, the real Virginians.

  9. Dave Briggman says:

    Bubby, explain to me why my estate should give more money to the government (which had already been taxed, by the way) simply because I die?

    What possible sense does that make?

    I would be very willing to bet that a majority of those “800 people” you refer to were, or are, employers.

  10. Bubby,

    Yes, Wisconsin has the highest drinking rate in the country. Do you know what it is that they drink? The same thing that the highest percentage of German-descended population of any state in the nation produces (and particularly in the state’s biggest city, Milwaukee), beer. We are not talking hard liquor here, but lots and lots of brau. Much of this is in the bars, although hard liquor comes into the bar scene as an old tradition among “real” Wisconsinites (the Norwegians are the second largest ethnic group in the state) are boilermakers, with brandy being the favored sort of hard liquor to go along with lots of beer.

    When I was mentioning Wisconsin was to point out that when it is allowed in the grocery stores, you do not get the “liqour store on every corner,” and indeed you do not have it there.

    What you need to show us, Bubby, is that more broadly across the country, the states with ABC store type setups have less drinking and alcoholism than those that do not. I checked and found no such studies, although maybe there are some somewhere. In the case of Wisconsin, we are talking culture, and the problem is just good old plain beer, not the hard stuff, except for maybe brandy a little bit.

  11. Lowell says:

    This conversation is making me thirsty…

  12. JGFitzgerald says:

    Keep a thread alive? madd.org has statistics. Boy, do they have statistics.

  13. Brian M says:

    I don’t blame you, Lowell. A nice hearty brew sounds awfully good right now. Darn work.

    What do you all think about either dropping the drinking age or removing it all together like many other countries do?

  14. The most important finding from the economics literature is that consumers tend to drink less ethanol, and have fewer alcohol-related problems, when alcoholic beverage prices are increased or alcohol availability is restricted. That set of findings is relevant for policy purposes because alcohol abuse imposes large “external” costs on others.

    The Social and Revenue Effects of State Alcoholic Beverage Control, Spellman and Jorgenson

    Abstract. The operation of a state monopoly on retail sales of alcoholic beverages is often viewed as an outdated relic of Prohibition. However, the control states have a significantly lower consumption rate per capita and the price level is lower than in open or competitive states. The alcoholism rate is also lower in the control states than in the open states. The alcoholism and consumption conclusions are valid even given regional socioeconomic differences….

  15. Bubby,

    Fair enough, although the study was published in 1982 on data from the 1970s. Also, there is a bit of a contradiction in that control states supposedly have lower prices, but higher prices are correlated with less consumption. I could not access the whole paper, but there are some loose ends there. I note this (old) paper claims that the control states raise more revenue, and I continue to argue that at this time the revenue question is very important.

  16. Josh says:

    Lowell, Brian M: We really need to establish a regular hburgnews happy hour.

  17. Alcohol Availability and the Formal Power and Resources of State Alcohol Beverage Control Agencies; Paul J. Gruenewald, Pat Madden, Kathy Janes, Prevention Research Center, Berkeley, California. 2006

    In a cross-sectional analysis of data available from 44 alcohol beverage control (ABC) jurisdictions in the United States, it was shown that states with greater restrictions on retail sales had greater resources for the conduct of ABC activities and lower densities of spirit outlets. These states, however, had greater densities of wine and beer outlets. States with greater marketplace restrictions had more resources for ABC enforcement activities and lower outlet densities across all beverage types. Further, supporting the suggestion that availability and demand may be simultaneously related, greater outlet densities were related to greater alcohol consumption (for beer) and greater levels of consumption were related to greater outlet densities (for wine).

  18. Lowell says:


    Tell me when and where! Could we develop a circuit?

  19. zen says:

    Circuit that happiness to the fine queen city to the south!

  20. Brian M says:

    I’m in, Josh. I do prefer the Friendly City over the Queen City though, Zen. Sorry, dude. =o)

  21. Barnabas says:

    I’ll join the STauNToNNeWS happy hour team.
    We don’t have any bars in Brands Flat.

  22. Lowell says:

    Okay, we seem to be up to four for this traveling circus!
    Building the network…

    Any suggestions about the first historic event?

  23. Josh says:

    How about Thursday before the Rocktown documentary? The screening starts at 6:30 (music), 7:00 (film). We could meet up at Cally’s starting a bit after 5pm. Sound good?

  24. Brian M says:

    Would love to do it then, but alas I have a reoccurring meeting on Thursdays. Don’t let that stop you guys though. Just be sure to drink an extra for me. =o)

  25. TM says:

    I know I’m not as frequent a contributor as I used to be, but if the invitation is open, wherever two or more are gathered [for drinks] I am there…

  26. Lowell says:

    Our numbers grow!

  27. I think there should be a monthly meetup. Like every first or third Wednesday somewhere downtown.

    Worth a try for a few months, anyway.

  28. TM says:

    Yes, Wednesdays work well for me.

  29. JohnLL says:

    Is this a bloggers’ meeting, or a hburgnews meeting, or whoever wishes to show up meeting?

  30. Lowell says:

    This is Josh’s idea and I don’t mean to seem out of place, but I think it’d be cool if you’d care to join us to share conversation JohnLL. I followed the link associated with your screen name, and wow! You have a mind for data!

  31. Josh says:

    Everyone is welcome! :) I suggested tomorrow at Cally’s because I figure some hburgnews readers might be attending the Rocktown documentary at Court Square Theater. I can’t make this Friday. I like Brent’s idea of a once a month deal. Any takers for tomorrow?

  32. If I can make it to Cally’s tomorrow between 5 and 6, I will.

  33. Andy Perrine says:

    Me, too.

  34. Regrettably, I won’t be able to make the meet-up, but I do plan to attend the screening.

  35. Sorry, will not make due to prior commitment.

  36. Lowell says:

    Those who made it had a very productive and enjoyable evening. We missed those of you who didn’t, and hope you can join us next time. Progress is being made…

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