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December 4, 2013
ABLE COMMISSION NEWS
A. Keith Burt, Director Oklahoma ABLE Commission
There was a recent case before the Oklahoma Supreme Court decided September 24, 2013, entitled Sheffer v. Buffalo Run Casino, PTE. Inc., 2013 OK 77, which was an appeal from the District Court of Ottawa County.
The facts of the case were as follows: Charles Sheffer, Jennifer Sheffer, and their minor son, J. S., were injured when their 18-wheeler tractor-trailer collided with a rental vehicle leased to William Garris and driven by David Billups, both employees of Carolina Forge Company, L.L.C. Garris and Billups had been drinking at the Buffalo Run Casino before the accident. Plaintiffs sued Carolina Forge on theories of respondent superior and negligent entrustment. They also sued the Buffalo Run Casino, The Peoria Tribe of Indians of Oklahoma and PTE, Inc. for Dram-Shop liability.
Dram-Shop liability refers to the case law governing the liability of bars, liquor stores and other establishments that serve alcoholic beverages. Dram-Shop laws are meant to establish the liability of establishments arising out of the sale of alcohol to visibly intoxicated persons or minors who subsequently cause death or injury to third parties as a result of alcohol-related crashes or other accidents. These laws are intended to protect the general public from the hazards of serving alcohol to minors and intoxicated patrons.
The Court found in this case that the Peoria Tribe is immune from suit in state court for compact-based tort claims because Oklahoma State courts are not courts of competent jurisdiction as the term is used in the model gaming compact. The Court also held that because Congress has not expressly abrogated tribal immunity from private, state court Dram-Shop claims and because the Peoria Tribe and its entities did not expressly waive their sovereign immunity by applying for and receiving a liquor license from the State of Oklahoma, the tribe is immune from Dram-Shop liability in state court.
A unanimous three-judge panel of the Tenth Circuit affirmed and found that although the compact does not define court of competent jurisdiction, it does expressly provide that this compact shall not alter tribal, federal or state civil adjudicatory or criminal jurisdiction.
The Court explained that the role of tribal sovereignty in pre-emption analysis varies in accordance with the particular notions of sovereignty that have developed from historical traditions of tribal independence.
The Court went on to say: When we determine that tradition has recognized a sovereign immunity in favor of the Indians in some respect, then we usually are reluctant to infer that Congress has authorized the assertion of state authority in that respect except where Congress has expressively provided that State law shall apply. If, however, we do not find such a tradition, or if we determine that the balance of state, federal, and tribal interest so requires, our pre-emption analysis may accord less weight to the backdrop of tribal sovereignty.
The Courts’ conclusion, in a 5-4 decision, held that the Peoria Tribe was immune from compact-based tort, including Dram-Shop liability, or prize claims in state court because Oklahoma State Courts are not courts of competent jurisdiction as the term is used in the model gaming compact. They also held that because Congress has not expressly abrogated tribal immunity from private, state court Dram-Shop claims and because the record is void of any evidence that the Peoria Tribe expressly and unequivocally waived its immunity when it applied for and received a state liquor license, the tribe is immune from Dram- Shop liability in state court.
We have all heard it many times. The dispensing of alcohol is a serious responsibility. It is not soda pop. Oklahoma is a great state to live in and I believe we have made tremendous strides in the tourism and hospitality industries. I believe we should strengthen the laws that protect our citizens while aiding commerce and continuing to provide a business friendly environment. I know there will be conflicts. I think Oklahoma can work them out.
I don’t know of anyone who has had only one job in their entire career. Sometimes we change jobs; sometimes we endeavor into another field of work entirely. I have been fortunate to enjoy the work and the people I work with for over 33 years. I’ve seen constitutional changes in the law, good economic times and bad. I have also seen a number of individuals here at the ABLE Commission come and go. I work with a diverse set of co-workers ranging from law enforcement officers to accountants and of course the employees that interpret the law, judge, prosecute,and give counsel to those in my position.
“I feel like Ted Danson turning off the bar lights on the last episode of Cheers.” My response was “Remember,Ted is now the lead on CSI, you are moving on from a sitcom to a drama.”
For over 20 years I worked with one of the brightest legal minds in the business as General Counsel Kurt Morgan guided the Commission through the complex workings of Oklahoma’s liquor laws. Kurt retired in 2005 and in 2008 we were introduced to John Maisch. In those five years, from 2008 to October 1, 2013, no one worked harder than John. He became the preeminent expert on Title 37, the statutes where Oklahoma’s liquor laws are found. He was a top rate prosecutor and an advocate for the ABLE Commission and what we stand for. He knew that it was more important to correct behavior than throw the book at people or just revoke their license. He was direct and articulate when explaining the law and its implications to our citizens and was a nationally recognized speaker on alcoholic beverage laws and regulations. On John’s last day, which stretched well into the evening as he worked to tidy up the loose ends on some outstanding cases, his last words to me were “I feel like Ted Danson turning off the bar lights on the last episode of Cheers.” My response was “Remember, Ted is now the lead on CSI, you are moving on from a sitcom to a drama.”
Effective October 1st, John left to pursue his career as a full-time professor. And so it goes, after five years, John certainly left his mark and is now gone, but certainly not forgotten.
The National Conference of State Liquor Administrators will hold its Northern- Southern Regional Conference in Oklahoma City on September 30, 2012 to October 3, 2012. ABLE licensees and all other interested persons are invited to join liquor administrators and liquor industry leaders from throughout the United States as they meet to discuss some of today’s most important regulatory issues.
DIRECT SHIPMENT UPDATE
The Wine Institute's Steve Gross will provide an update on recent changes to direct shipment statutes across the country. Headquartered in San Fransciso, California, the Wine Institute represents over 1,000 California wineries and affiliated businesses.
TO SELL OR NOT TO SELL:
Washington DC-based Adam Chafetz, President and CEO of TIPS, moderates a panel focusing on practical steps retailers can take to mitigate or reduce the likelihood of civil, criminal, or administrative penalties associated with selling or serving an intoxicated person.
TRIBAL SOVEREIGNTY & STATE
Mike McBride, Supreme Court Justice of the Pawnee Nation, brings together state liquor regulators and tribal attorneys to discuss a variety of complex issues related to enforcing state liquor laws on tribal land and in tribal casinos.
HOSPITALITY BRANDING SUCCESS
Once reported to be the second most collected t-shirt in the world, Eskimo Joe’s Co-Founder, Stan Clark, shares how he grew the Stillwater- based restaurant’s brand into one of the most recognizable in the world and where he sees the hospitality industry headed in the next decade.
TTB LABEL APPROVAL CHANGE
Susan Evans, Executive Liaison for Industry Matters with the Alcohol & Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau, discusses proposed changes to the federal agency's label approval process, including a simplified COLA for some products.
Jerry Dinallo, Diageo's Senior Managing Director and Regulatory and Compliance Counsel,
leads a panel of in-house counsel, regulators and alcoholic beverage law specialists as they discuss the challenges and trade practice compliance issues that arise with the continued emergence of social media sites and other digital platforms.
ATTACKING "ACTUAL FURTHERANCE"
Georgia attorney Max Hess and his panel examine the strengths and weaknesses of the "actual futherance" analysis.The panel will discuss how state legislatures and liquor agencies can fight to win back the presumption of validity under the 21st Amendment once taken for granted by most courts.
New York-based attorney Nicholas Bergman and his panel delve into the intricacies of licensing complex entities, while considering whether there is a more efficient and business- friendly approach to handling the business of regulating today’s highly sophisticated beverage alcohol industry.
TO CATCH A MOONSHINER -
ABLE Commission SAC Joe Daniels takes attendees on a photo journey into moonshine operations located in the backwoods of southeastern Oklahoma. Captain Daniels shares the disturbing practices employed by moonshiners, including the story of one Oklahoma moonshiner who would shoot his own dogs and leave their decomposing bodies outside of the shed to mask the scent of his latest batch of shine
BATTLE FOR WHITECLAY - TEMPERANCE
Winner of Best Political Documentary at the 2009 New York International Film Festival, film
Registration for the NCSLA Conference at the
NATIONAL CONFERENCE OF STATE LIQUOR ADMINISTRATORS
SEPTEMBER 30 – OCTOBER 3, 2012
MONDAY, OCTOBER 1, 2012
Tribal Sovereignty & State Liquor Regulation,
Moderator: Mike McBride, Esq. Pawnee Nation Supreme Court Justice, Tulsa, Oklahoma
In Defense of the Three-Tier System
Moderator: Max Hess, Esq. , Taylor, Feil, Harper, Lumsden & Hess, Atlanta, GA
Battle for Whiteclay: Temperance & Taxation
Presenter: Mark Vasina, Documentary Filmmaker 2009
|Paint Jobs & Free Pizza: What Constitutes an Unlawful Trade Practice.
Presenters: Lou Bright & Evan Lawson
TUESDAY, OCTOBER 2, 2012
|To Serve or Not to Serve: Dram Shop & Other Risks
Moderator: Adam Chafetz, TIPS, Virginia
Branding Success Story
|Disclosure Requirements in Reporting Complex
Ownership Structures in the Modern Licensing Age
Moderator: Nicholas Bergman, Esq., Buchman Law
Firm (New York City)
|Tied House Regulation of Social Media
Moderator: Jerry Dinallo, Diageo
Direct Shipment Update
To Catch a Moonshiner: The Dirty Truths That Cable
WEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 3, 2012
Technology & Innovations Update
|TTB Label Approval Change Initiative
Presenter: Susan Evans, Tax & Trade Bureau
Registration begins on Saturday, September 29, 2012
Go to www.NCSLA.org to register and to find full conference details.
Oklahoma Update: A Few Changes for the Summer
A. Keith Burt, Director, Oklahoma ABLE Commission
Another legislative session has come to an end and we have a few new laws to report to Beverage News readers.
Senate Bill provides that universities or colleges located within a business improvement district will be allowed to waive the current restriction prohibiting a bar from locating within 300 feet of that university or college.
Senate Bill prohibits state agencies other than the ABLE Commission from imposing redundant licensing or fee requirements on wholesalers who sell alcoholic beverages to gaming facilities licensed by the Horse Racing Commission.
Senate Bill 1263 strengthens cities’ and municipalities’ power to review and protest low- point beer applications prior to issuance.
While some bills passed, other legislative efforts failed, including bills that would have allowed minors to enter package stores if accompanied by a parent or guardian (House Bill 2930), allowed limited sampling in package stores (House Bill 2954), and would have allowed felons to obtain an employee license three years after the completion of their sentence (House Bill 2867). Another piece of legislation, House Joint Resolution 1015, would have allowed voters to decide whether bottle openers and cork screws could be sold in package stores. The referendum passed the House but failed to get out of the Senate Rules Committee.
On a related note, the initiative petition that calls for a constitutional amendment allowing grocery store wine sales was unsuccessfully challenged at the Oklahoma Supreme Court. The initiative petition, submitted by the Oklahomans for Modern Laws, would allow grocery stores containing at least 25,000 square feet, located in counties of 50,000 or more residents, and not located within 300 feet of an existing package store, to obtain multiple off-premises licenses for the purpose of selling un-refrigerated wine. Following the unsuccessful court challenge, grocery store wine supporters have announced plans to collect the signatures this fall but to delay the vote until November 2014.
Now for some good news. For the first time in three years, Oklahoma’s revenue collections were sufficient to avoid budget cuts for the ABLE
Commission. Still, standstill budgets rarely have a neutral impact. The costs of goods we purchase, along with rising health care and pension funding, continue to increase, so standstill budgets do not usually allow us to maintain current staffing levels. Our staffing level is now at a 28 year low, while active licenses issued by the ABLE Commission have grown to an all time high.
Doing more with less seems to be a trend. Government funding, at least for state government services, is not keeping pace with the demand or need. However, our workforce here at the ABLE Commission remains focused on the job at hand, wearing multiple hats and getting the work out.
Our leadership stems from our Board of seven Commissioners. Appointed by the Governor for five year terms, these volunteers provide oversight, guidance and direction, while receiving no salary. We say good-bye to one of those commissioners this month, Desmond Sides, appointed by Governor Keating in 1996, who leaves us after 16 years of faithful service to the citizens of Oklahoma and the Oklahoma ABLE Commission. Commissioner Sides has left his mark on the Commission with his deliberate and insightful approach. Commissioner Sides was always ready to listen to every side, which in our business was sometimes more than two. Nearly every decision we are asked to address could have an impact on manufacturers, wholesalers, retailers and public safety. With an understanding of our laws and a desire to reach an equitable solution, Commissioner Sides listened and ruled fairly for sixteen years. My personal perspective as an administrator and as a regulator, serving at the pleasure of the board, is that I have been blessed to serve a man with high ideals and character beyond reproach, who always had time to listen to my problems. Commissioner Sides will continue to practice law in Poteau, Oklahoma.
Happy trails my friend, until … well you know the rest.
Desmond Sides, Esq., CPA
ABLE Commissioner July 1996 – June 2012
P. S. Please forgive me, Desmond, this sounded way too much like you were being eulogized.
For Immediate Release
August 10, 2012
The ABLE Commission received notice that certain 1.75 Liter bottles of 1800 Tequila have been voluntarily recalled by its manufacturer. In the State of Oklahoma, the product’s nonresident seller, Republic, is coordinating efforts to retrieve and issue credit to ABLE licensees for recalled bottles of the product in the state.
The ABLE Commission is requiring all ABLE licensees to immediately discontinue selling or serving any of the recalled products containing the affected lot codes, pursuant to its emergency powers set forth in Oklahoma Statutes. 37 O.S. §§514, 528(I).
Any mixed beverage licensee or package store licensee that locates the recalled product should contact your Class-A wholesaler or Republic at (405) 702-4500 immediately so that the recalled product can be picked up.
To view a list of affected lot codes, you may view the manufacturer’s website, www.1800tequila.com, call 866-795-8805, email email@example.com.
An excerpt from the manufacturer’s press release is set forth below:
"Agavera Camichines, S.A. de C.V. , the brand owner of 1800® Tequila, today announced a voluntary US nationwide recall of 1800® Tequila 1.75 Liter Silver, Reposado and Coconut packaging due to potential damage during transportation and handling in some cases to the glass stopper.
"Please be aware that 1800 Tequila in all other sizes (50 ml, 200ml, 375ml, 750 ml and 1 Liter) are not impacted. In addition, 1800 Tequila Anejo, Select Silver (100 Proof) and 1800 Ultimate Margarita products are not impacted.
"Although it is believed that the percentage of affected bottles is low, to protect the safety of consumers, the brand owner, Agavera Camichines, S.A. de C.V., has made the decision to voluntarily recall the 1800 Tequila 1.75 Liter packaging as a precautionary measure. There have been no reports of consumer injuries, but the presence of small particles of glass in the bottle could pose a health risk.”
Press Inquiries should be emailed directly to the manufacturer at Media.Inquiries@1800tequila.com or firstname.lastname@example.org, or you may call 416-435-5019.
Statewide Prohibition: The Early Years
John A. Maisch, General Counsel,
Oklahoma ABLE Commission
Over 27,000 gallons of beer poured into Oklahoma City sewers on November 17, 1907,when Oklahoma officially became a state. The night before, revelers crowded the streets to indulge in one more round before the lights were turned off on legal consumption in the city’s saloons.
State law enforcement officials quickly discovered what the federal law enforcement officials would similarly find out just a few years later: Prohibition did not stop consumption, it only changed the manner and mode in which alcohol was manufactured, distributed, and consumed.
Ironically, Prohibition drove consumers away from beer, the low alcohol content drink that had become so popular in the United States since German immigrants arrived in the country in the mid-1800’s, to the higher alcohol content contained in distilled spirits. After all, there were higher profit margins in distilled spirits, whether it was smuggled into the U.S. from overseas or distilled under cover of darkness in a still hidden deep in the woods.
Ultimately, neither federal nor state law enforcement efforts could outmatch the ingenuity or determination of the hundreds of bootleggers looking to satisfy the demand of thousands of Oklahoma residents who refused to stop consuming alcoholic beverages.
To make matters worse, the Oklahoma Constitution only prohibited alcoholic beverages from being manufactured within the state. Thanks to the Commerce Clause, and the federal government’s glaring reluctance to curtail the flow of alcoholic beverages into the state, federal tax stamps continued to be imported by Oklahoma residents well into the first decade after statehood.
Not until Congress addressed this federal loophole through the passage of the Webb-Kenyon Act were these interstate shipments into Oklahoma finally stopped. Passed by Congress over the veto of President William Howard Taft , the Webb-Kenyon Act made it unlawful for alcoholic beverage to be transported into dry states, if those alcoholic beverages were intended for consumption in that dry state. 27 U.S.C. §122. The U.S. Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of the Web-Kenyon Act in Clark Distilling Company v. Western Maryland Railway Co., 242 U.S. 311 (1917).
OKLAHOMA CONSTITUTIONAL CONVENTION
John A. Maisch, General Counsel,
Oklahoma ABLE Commission
Oklahoma’s Constitutional Convention delegates were mostly farmers, but the two delegates who wielded the most influence over the issue of prohibition at the Convention were two attorneys, William “Alfalfa Bill” Murray and Charles Haskell. Convention President Murray presided over the gathering, while Majority Leader Haskell worked behind the scenes to secure majorities on most of the controversial issues facing the delegates, including the issue of prohibition. A teetotaler and self-trained attorney from Ohio, Haskell had settled in Muskogee, a small town located in Indian Territory, in 1901.He made quick friends with the prohibition organizations upon arriving in Guthrie. With the help of Murray, Haskell was successful in getting a statewide prohibition provision inserted onto the ballot.
Haskell’s efforts were nearly derailed by the Committee on Liquor Traffic. Handpicked by Haskell and the Anti-Saloon League, the 15-member Committee was appointed to study the issue of statewide prohibition and submit its recommendations to Convention delegates. Misjudging the political strength of anti-prohibition forces, the Committee on Liquor Traffic sought out a compromise with those who opposed prohibition. The compromise, which would have continued prohibition in those counties formerly located in Indian Territory while allowing liquor on a county-option basis in all other counties, was completely unacceptable to Haskell. The compromise submitted by the Committee on Liquor Traffic was rejected by Constitutional Convention delegates.
Soon to be elected the State of Oklahoma’s first Governor, Haskell would champion the statewide prohibition provision through the Constitutional Convention on March 15, 1907. A little more than six months later, on September 17, 1907, Oklahoma voters would overwhelmingly ratified the state’s first Constitution by a vote of 180,333 (71%) to 73,089 (29%). Statewide prohibition would not garner the same level of public approval. Fearing that its inclusion might risk defeat of both questions, the Convention delegates submitted constitution ratification and statewide prohibition as separate questions on the ballot. Prohibition supporters were justified in being concerned. The statewide prohibition provision was ratified by Oklahomans, but by a much narrower margin: 130,361 (54%) to 112,258 (46%). Oklahoma’s Constitution, including the statewide prohibition provision, became effective November 17, 1907.
OKLAHOMA CONSTITUTIONAL CONVENTION
John A. Maisch, General Counsel,
Oklahoma ABLE Commission
Over a century ago, leaders from both Oklahoma and Indian Territories converged on Guthrie on November 20, 1906, to consider constitutional provisions for the proposed state. Proponents and opponents of prohibition were not far behind.
With such different policies on the sale of alcoholic beverages, our state’s founders were forced to take position on the issue: How would the state’s new constitution address alcoholic beverage sales within its border.
By the late 1800’s early 1900’s national prohibition and anti-prohibition movements had already sprung up across most of the United States. These movements had various origins, but most had religious, ethnic, and economic overtones.
One of the prohibitionists’ primary concerns was tied houses, saloons that were either owned or funded by particular liquor and beer manufacturers. These saloons would be home to many nefarious activities, such as gambling and prostitution.
Supported by national malt beverage interests, the German American Association established a presence in Guthrie to counter the prohibition message espoused by the Anti-Saloon League and the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union.
Along with the local organizations such as the Citizens League and the Liquor Men’s Association, the German American Association argued that statewide prohibition would have an adverse impact on the proposed state’s economy.
The Oklahoma Constitutional Convention was composed of 112 delegates,58 from Oklahoma Territory, 58 from Indian Territory, and 2 from Osage Nation. Ninety-nine delegates (88%) were Democrats, 12 delegates (11%) were Republican, and the remaining delegate was an Independent.
Over the next four months, delegates addressed all of the most pressing issues that would confront a new state, but perhaps no single issue caused more consternation than prohibition.
APRIL 16, 2012
A. Keith Burt Oklahoma ABLE Commission
The Oklahoma Legislature convened February 6, 2012 and as usual legislation will be introduced or carried over from the first session at the 53rd Oklahoma Legislature that could affect the ABLE Commission.
Our agency deals with charitable gaming and prevention of youth access to tobacco legislation, but for this publication
I will only present the items affecting the alcoholic beverage industry.
We are currently monitoring the following Senate or House bills. Our staff researches and our General Counsel presents
updates of these bills in greater detail at our monthly Commission meeting. The Commission meets on the third Friday of each month at 10:00 a.m., at the Oklahoma City Office, 3812 N. Santa Fe, Suite 200.
House Bill 2477 by Representative Seneca Scott allows breweries to provide limited samples at the brewery (10 oz. total
serving a day).
House Bill 2867 by Representative Mike Shelton allows felons to obtain employee licenses after three years following
the completion of the sentence.
House Bill 2789 by Representative Charles Ortega reduces winemakers self distribution fee from $750 to $250.
Senate Bill 1218 by Senator David Holt would allow universities and colleges to waive the 300 foot restriction in a
business improvement district.
House Bill 2725 by Representative Scott Inman would prohibit low point beer purchases using a self-check out in
House Bill 3147 by Representative Steve Martin would clarify language to allow donated wine and beer at the same
House Bill 2954 by Representative Joe Dorman would allow samples of alcoholic beverages at retail liquor stores.
House Bill 2958 by Representative Mike Christian would require restaurants and bars to carry a minimum of $350,000
House Bill 2930 by Representative Don Armes would allow persons under 21 to enter into a package store but not
approach the cashier (nor make a purchase)
Senate Bill 570 by Senator Rob Johnson would expand the scope of employee licenses to include wineries
Senate Bill 659 by Senator Clark Jolley would modify the definition of “Oklahoma Winemaker” and addresses festivals
and trade shows.
A closer look at these bills and other legislation that could affect the ABLE Commission is presented at our monthly
meetings in the legislative review portion that provides updates through the end of the Oklahoma Legislative session.
Commission Reaches Out to Applicants
Seeking Preliminary Confirmation of 300' Distance from Church or School
Applicants seeking a package store license or bar license are reminded that no package store or bar may be located within 300’ of a church or school. 37 O.S. §518.3. The distance is measured from the nearest perimeter wall of the proposed location to the nearest property line of the church or school.
Generally, the ABLE Commission will confirm the distance while performing its on-site inspection at the conclusion of the application process. Time permitting, an applicant may contact the ABLE Commission to request a preliminary measurement. However, if a question exists whether a proposed location falls within the 300’ proximity restriction, applicants are strongly encouraged to contact a licensed surveyor.
MARCH 13, 2012
For Immediate Website Release
ABLE Commission Addresses March Madness Contests
In 2004, the ABLE Commission addressed whether it was lawful to play Texas Hold 'Em in a mixed beverage establishment. The Commission’s position was that poker would be allowed only under the most limited of circumstances, specifically that there was no cost to participate and no prizes could be awarded. There has been no legislative action that would prompt us to revisit this position at this time.
Consequently, NCAA March Madness contests would also be prohibited in mixed beverage establishments if 1) patrons must pay to participate in the pool 2) for the chance to win cash, a gift certificate, food credit, or other valuable consideration. 21 O.S. §1051. It should be noted that, even if patrons are not required to pay to participate in the basketball pool, Oklahoma law prohibits mixed beverage establishments from giving away alcoholic beverages in connection with any contest, 37 O.S. §537(B)(4)(f).
The ABLE Commission emphasizes that Oklahoma’s gambling prohibitions are criminal statutes, not administrative statutes, created by the Oklahoma Legislature, not the ABLE Commission. As a general rule, these gambling prohibitions apply to all public places, not only mixed beverage establishments. Those citizens or mixed beverage establishments wishing to change Oklahoma’s gambling laws should contact their legislators.
Oklahoma law requires the ABLE Commission to enforce the laws of this state, particularly those involving alcoholic beverages. Nevertheless, locally elected, law enforcement offices are presumably in a better position, fiscally and logistically, to handle the investigation, property storage, and ultimate disposition of such violations. Therefore, unless there is an imminent threat to the public's safety or health, we believe it is more appropriate for local sheriff and/or police departments to assume the primary responsibility of enforcing such violations, rather the ABLE Commission, since the gambling statutes involve criminal statutes, not administrative statutes.
THE ABLE COMMISSION: A VOICE AT THE TABLE
A. KEITH BURT, DIRECTOR, OKLAHOMA ABLE COMMISSION
An article appeared in the February 2012 issue of “ADDICTION” entitled “Top Priorities for Alcohol Regulation in the United States: Protecting Public Health or the Alcohol Industry?” by Sarah M. Mart of Alcohol Justice.
“ADDICTION” publishes peer-reviewed research reports on alcohol, illicit drugs and tobacco behavioral addictions. ADDICTION has been published since 1884 by the Society for the Study of Addiction to Alcohol and other Drugs, a non-profit based in England that describes itself as a society that promotes professionals in the field of addictions to share their knowledge, skills and enhance the work of their members for the mutual benefit of all concerned with the study of addiction.
Ms. Mart’s article relates her experience at the National Conference of State Liquor Administrators (NCSLA) National Conference June 20-24, 2010, in New Orleans, Louisiana. Ms. Mart points out about 72% of the attendees are from the alcohol industry and that only 7 of the 21 states in attendance that sent a regulator sent more than one representative. She goes on to show 65% of the panelists were from the alcohol industry and that she was the sole public health advocate in attendance.
I remember the 2010 NCSLA National convention However, I remember not being there because of our latest budget crunch and conserving our resources by not going. When I related our financial situation to our seven Alcoholic Beverage Laws Enforcement (ABLE) Commissioners, each one understood
in its administration of the Federal Alcohol Administrators Act; and to strive for harmony in the administration of the Alcoholic Beverage Control laws among the several states.
Ms. Mart points out that because of safety and health concerns our residents depend on effective alcoholic beverage control laws, and that NCSLA might want to include public health as one of its professional and organizational priorities. Guess what Sarah, I agree. As the newly elected Southern Regional Chairman of NCSLA and as a member of its board, I am proud to say the Oklahoma ABLE Commission will be hosting the North-South regional this fall in Oklahoma City. My General Counsel and I are in the process of putting together interesting and informative panelists for the conference. We want to include public safety and health advocacy groups on those panels. Although I agree with Ms. Mart’s position on bringing public safety and health advocacy groups to the proverbial table, to have a voice. Nevertheless, I do not agree with the approach, to not to be a part of NCSLA because there is not enough representation of those groups. Why not choose to participate and be that voice? I personally believe the industry is wise to address their concerns with regulators. In Oklahoma we have industry and health and mental health leaders that we are in contact with each other on an on-going basis. Because of the strong leadership in the Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse agency, we have had joint projects that have addressed many public health issues.
I believe there are unintended consequences as a result of Ms. Mart’s article. I believe it casts the NCSLA in an unjust and unfavorable light. NCSLA’s President William Kelley of Massachusetts strongly defended the organization and I am in support of his response.
and our only representative was a Commissioner that paid his own way. This Commissioner values the NCSLA and the information he receives from it. Keep in mind that Commissioners do not receive a salary for their participation on the Commission. This was not the case with Ms. Mart, whose trip was funded not by her organization “Alcohol Justice”, formerly the Marin Institute, and she did not pay her own way. Instead, the NCSLA paid for her to come in an effort to reach out to public health advocacy groups.
In addition to the number of industry members to regulators, Ms. Mart also points to, in my opinion, what was described as a bullying tactic by the industry to force the regulators to work with the industry to get to their support. Implications were perceived, if regulators did not follow their lead, consumers in the regulator's state could threaten their jobs. I do not feel threatened when working with the industry on their concerns.
Ms. Mart states in her article the purpose of NCSLA as found on its website NCSLA.org is as follows:
…to promote the enactment of the most effective and equitable types of state alcoholic beverage control laws; to devise and promote the use of methods, which provide the best enforcement of the particular alcoholic beverage control law in each state; to work for the adoption of uniform laws insofar as they may be practicable; to promote harmony with the federal government
But, where are we now? If one of our goals is to bring 1) health and public safety into this triangle with 2) industry and 3) regulators, have we taken a step back? Are communications better or worse now?
I hope Ms. Mart will come to the regional in Oklahoma City. I would warmly and sincerely welcome her. I am not, however, in favor of paying for that trip from NCSLA funds. I would rather give funds to regulators whose budgets do not allow them to come.
These are solely my opinions, but I am ready to start a dialog that will improve relations that lead to happy, healthy, safe citizens in Oklahoma and all other states.
The ABLE Commission: Saying Good-bye to 2011
A. Keith Burt, Director, Oklahoma ABLE Commission
In 2010, the ABLE Commission said good-bye to five longtime ABLE employees through retirement. Because of budget cuts, we were able to only refill two positions, but, thankfully, 2011 did not claim further ABLE retirees. 2012 will not be so kind, as we expect at least three more employees to retire.
In recent years our economy has presented challenges to both private and public companies and although uncertainties exist, I am encouraged as Oklahoma's economy continues to show signs of improvement. These signs give me hope that future retirements would be met with our ability to replace the retiring employees. It is difficult enough to lose all that institutional knowledge, compounded with the loss of manpower when critical positions are left unfilled, without your mission being compromised.
As 2011 drew to a close, the Oklahoma ABLE Commission had 41 full time focused employees. I have managers opening the mail and supervisors filling in at the front desk. We have most employees stepping up and wearing multiple hats.
When you have as few employees as we do, you tend to know everyone. You grow to care about other employee's and their families. I hope employees have satisfying work, do a good job and make it to their retirement goals, emotionally intact without bitterness, not beaten down by the job and in good health, able to enjoy the retirement they have earned
Two decades ago, we had twice as many employees, less work and it has been over five years and counting since state employees received their last pay raise.
The retirement wishes I have for myself and my colleagues just gets more complicated, yet they inspire me, with their dedication and faith.
We had many challenges in 2011, among them more budget cuts. Government consolidations continued and our agency was once again a target. We moved our offices at the end of September, and Oklahoma took a serious look at wine and strong beer in grocery stores.
As I say good-bye to 2011, I turn my attention to 2012 and what is in store for us this year. In a month the legislators will be back and I am hopeful when they convene some answers to our financial woes will occur. Collecting over five million dollars each year and receiving only a little over 3.1 million dollars, the ABLE Commission is a bargain, and if we were a for profit company, we would be in the black and paying dividends.
The ABLE Commission and its predecessor, the Alcohol Beverage Control Board (ABC), have been enforcing liquor laws and regulating the sale and distribution of alcoholic beverages since 1959. Alcohol is a unique product and serious consequences can occur if it were treated as pop. A New Year; same mission: Keep it safe.
Until this time next year, here's wishing you and yours a Happy New Year!
The ABLE Commission: Alcohol and Crime
Jim Hughes, Assistant Director, The Oklahoma ABLE Commission
Kids drinking beer and alcohol; what is the world coming to?
OK, I guess this is not a new problem. It has been a concern since I was a kid and my parents worried about me. It was a concern to me when my daughters were teenagers. What do we need to do and what can we do to address this problem before my grandchildren are teens?
We all know that if young people want to drink, they will find a way to obtain alcoholic beverages in some form. Recent surveys indicate that 65% of Oklahoma youth say getting alcoholic beverages or low-point beer is easy. Whether from a parent, family member, friend or retailer, adults are often the main source of alcohol for kids.
According to a 2001 study, underage drinking in that same year cost the citizens of Oklahoma $771 million. Included in the cost are medical care, loss of work, pain and suffering from problems due to use of alcoholic beverages. This same study showed that underage drinkers consumed 20% of all alcoholic beverages sold in Oklahoma, totaling $ 184 million in sales.
The Governor established a task force on the Prevention of Underage Drinking and requested a comprehensive plan to address the problem. The task force was comprised of community leaders state and local law enforcement, Department of Mental Health officials, legislators and educators. Most, if not all, are parents or grandparents.
The task force made its final recommendations in December 2006 with little or no publicity or fanfare. To date, even with the growing problem,there has been no effort to take advantage of the group's efforts. Will this study be bound and placed on the shelf like so many others and referenced only during the next study authorized to again examine the issue?
The task force made the following recommendations:
1. Create or designate a single agency to be responsible for coordinating underage drinking enforcement currently an individual receives a license from the state, the county and the municipality, which allows for the sale of alcoholic beverage and low-point beer.
The regulation and enforcement of state alcoholic beverage laws and low-point beer laws is parceled between local and state law enforcement agencies. There is clear authority over licensing but the enforcement of low-point beer law is an area that must be done by local authorities; while alcoholic beverage laws may and must be enforced by all law enforcement entities in the state.
Reporting underage sales or complaints of minors in possession of alcoholic beverages is not funneled to one responsible entity and is often lost in law enforcement’s list of priorities and limited resources.
2. Name the ABLE Commission as the agency authorized to enforce laws pertaining to low-point beer, as well as alcoholic beverages. The ABLE Commission has clear authority to license all establishments involved in the manufacture sale, delivery, mixing and serving of alcoholic beverages in the state of Oklahoma.
It has been the sole authority since 1959. It has established offices, policies and procedures in place that would easily assimilate the inclusion of low-point beer enforcement. Currently most on-premise licensees have an alcoholic beverage license. and a low-point beer license. ABLE agents during tobacco enforcement visit other low-point licensed locations. The Constitution and Attorney General opinions prevent low-point beer enforcement by the ABLE Commission.
3. Re-define low-point beer as an alcoholic beverage.The Oklahoma Constitution makes a clear distinction between low-point beer (once referred to as non-intoxicating liquor) and alcoholic beverages.
4. Strengthen state laws pertaining to underage drinking. Youth Access to Alcoholic Beverages and social host laws are a great start, but perhaps attention should be placed on the individuals or locations that continue to furnish kids with alcohol.
5. Increase law enforcement funding and resources to allow for proper and consistent enforcement of underage drinking laws.
6. Increase the tax on alcoholic beverages and low-point beer.
7. Encourage funding and implementation of prevention approaches that are evidence based;Cops-in-shops, shoulder tap, green card are a few programs that have proved to be successful in minimizing sales to minors. All are time and manpower intensive which strain limited resources.
8. Require and provide licensee education, to include employee training. This has been found to be a valuable asset for the regulator and licensees. The training allows special emphasis to be given to problem areas such as underage sales.
9. Develop and implement a statewide media effort.This has proven its worth in slowing youth use of tobacco as demonstrated by Health Department involvement and statistical information.
10. Enhance opportunities for youth leadership efforts. Proven that most effective anti-sales programs concerning youth use of tobacco are originated with and put forward and supported by the youth themselves. Just as many kids are interested in minimizing alcohol use and abuse. Mental Health and Health Departments have a successful track record that is easily modified to target underage drinking. The recent social host laws and ordinances put into place by several communities are a great first step. But lets not stop there we can do so much more.
How great would it be that after a very short time, most Oklahomans were talking about the changes made across the state that have made a difference in our youth's access to alcohol. By increasing the penalties for providing alcohol to young people we could send a strong message that would make adults think twice before handing it to them. That is
was certainly not worth losing a job or the money spent on fines or living with the consequences of the actions of that underage person drinking.
Assigning responsibility of state law enforcement to a law enforcement agency and increasing those enforcement efforts would certainly seem the logical course of action by the state. The media effort, education of kids, parents, retailers and servers could be done with oversight from the Department of Mental Health, who currently coordinate the efforts to prevent youth access to tobacco.
Bottom line is that the cost of doing nothing is too high. We can certainly do better and this Task Force's recommendations make sense and should receive strong consideration from our state leaders. Oklahoma's youth are important to all of us. There is absolutely no reason Oklahoma can't be a leader in this effort.
The task force created a template for positive change in the way we address this problem, lets use it.
December 21, 2011
STRIKING A BALANCE
By A. Keith Burt, Director, Oklahoma ABLE Commission
Our work at the ABLE Commission often involves striking a balance. We never forget we are a law enforcement agency and ensuring compliance with the law is a great concern to us. The public safety issues we encounter, balanced with the economic concerns of our licensees and those of Oklahoma consumers, play a role in our administrative and enforcement efforts.
Recently, I was meeting on the Joint Legislative Task Force created by Senate Bill 658. This 21 member Task Force that I was a part of had a very diverse makeup. The Task Force consisted of health and public safety officials as well as alcoholic beverage industry representatives from the three tiers. Commerce, convenience and grocery stores were also represented. Lay citizens were appointed along with three Oklahoma State Senators and three Oklahoma State Representatives.
The Task Force’s purpose was to examine the feasibility of allowing high-point beer and wine to be sold in convenience and grocery stores. There were constitutional amendments to consider. Economic consequences to existing licensees that had been playing by a set of rules for more than fifty years with substantial personal investments were also to be considered. What about eventual costs to Oklahoma consumers? Would selection increase or decrease? The prices of not only wine and strong beer, but liquor as well are being examined.
Reports were given concerning impacts of economic relevance to the various groups. Health concerns and those impacts on Oklahomans were also discussed. My concerns of greater access by our youth were also discussed and I introduced reports from Washington State that showed compliance rates decreased when that state allowed wine sales in grocery stores. The exponential growth of licensees with increased hours of operation would certainly strain our existing manpower. I know that thirty-five other states allow the sale of wine in grocery stores and thirty-three of those allow convenience stores to sell wine. Because other states allow it does not mean it is right or wrong for Oklahomans. The Task Force was to disband no later than February 1, 2012 with a report to the Oklahoma Legislature. The ABLE Commission knows its role. We are law enforcers not law makers. Hopefully, the information provided will help those decision makers in the next Legislative session. At the end of our second meeting, a motion was made, and without any verbal dissent, it was voted that the Task Force would not meet again. With many factors to consider, the Legislature has its work cut out to determine a future course for Oklahomans on the issue of wine and strong beer sales in Oklahoma.
It is not always easy to strike a balance between public safety issues and allowing the freedom to pursue an economic endeavor involving intoxicating beverages. It is not soda pop that we regulate. As much as I hear from some of the public that the ABLE Commission is too restrictive and we need to be more progressive, not even a year ago headlines in a local newspaper read, “Agency Waters Down Penalties.” The ABLE Commission was being criticized for not revoking eight licenses for selling to a minor. We should have to defend our actions and we did. A $1,000 fine to a server’s first offense is not insignificant in my opinion. I have often stated that correcting behavior is our primary goal, not writing tickets.
We need to strike a balance. Some will always think there is too much enforcement; others wonder why we don’t throw the book at the violators. As the Director of the agency charged with enforcing the State liquor laws, I want to ensure that Oklahomans have the right to enjoy alcoholic beverages responsibly without harming themselves or others, while at the same time allowing a business friendly environment. It’s about “striking a balance”.
The ABLE Commission would like to make available to law enforcement officials the following list of 2M2L Training Dates and Locations:
Online Registration Now Available: www.ok.gov/odmhsas/2M2L.html
2012 2M2L Training Dates and Locations
|Oklahoma City, OK January 9-10, 2012
Metro Tech - Economic Development Center
1900 Springlake Drive
|Lawton, OK - February 15-16, 2011
Great Plains Technology Center, Room 301A
4500 W. Lee Blvd.
|McAlester, OK - February 28-29, 2012
Kiamichi Technology Center, Room BIS
301 Kiamichi Drive
|Woodward, OK- March 20-21, 2012
High Plains Technology Center, Room 201C
3921 39TH Street
|Guymon, OK- April 11-12, 2012
Holiday inn Express
701 SE Highway 3
“A Not So Special Event”
A. Keith Burt, Director, Oklahoma ABLE Commission
Oklahoma Beverage News (October 2011)
As business owners look for ways to increase their visibility and bring more customers to their doors, I have seen an increase in mobile food vehicles. A recent mobile event, which organizers were calling H & 8th, named for its location at Hudson and 8th Avenue, included a taco and burrito truck, an ice cream van, a couple other food trucks, and an Ale dispenser. Local restaurants were busy, an art gallery had its doors open and two young men were singing and playing guitars. It sounds like fun to me, although I was not there that particular night. I have been thrilled to see Oklahoma City become a place thriving with entertainment and dining opportunities for our citizens and visitors. Then something went terribly wrong. The event was scheduled to kick off at 8 p.m., but less than an hour into the festivities the report that I received was that there were health code violations that caused some of the food vendors to shut down. The ABLE Commission’s participation included writing two tickets at one of the local restaurants unrelated to the event.
I read accounts of that evening and asked our Assistant Director to provide me with a review of our actions. Those attending the event were surely disappointed. I was disappointed that the event hit a snag and our citizens attending were now wondering just what happened. There were several accounts following and the coverage lasted more than a week. One report I read said we were “Sovietized Gestapo” and a bunch of Nazis. When you are trying to do a good job and your intent is to protect and serve the public, it is disappointing to read how someone has perceived your efforts and even though some cultural and historic references may have been mixed and matched, it is never fun to be compared to Hitler. Mayhem in midtown and swat raids were mentioned in some accounts of that evening. I do not believe any of our licensees think we are going to call ahead and warn you that we are coming. I plead guilty to having unannounced or surprise inspections; however, I do not want to put any honest, taxpaying licensee of ours out of business. The ABLE Commission did not shut down anything. The only time you see our agents at a taco truck would be to investigate a report they were selling whiskey from it or they were hungry. However, this story should not end there with “it’s not our fault.”
Citizens expect and deserve their government to be responsible to them, to serve and protect them. View what happened that night from someone looking to enjoy the evening at H & 8th. When I heard there were over 20 agents descending on the event, I wondered where they all came from. We only have 22 agents for the entire state. As it turns out, in addition to our three agents, one of which was in training, there was a presence from city and county health inspectors, fire and city enforcement officers. I could definitely see why someone would wonder why this much manpower was needed. I can only relate to you that we were checking on a caterer’s license, that was not even two days old and catering for the first time. I want to be responsible and sensitive to the needs of the business community. This responsiveness includes doing our best not to interrupt someone’s dinner when we make inspections. It has always been more important to me to correct behavior than write tickets. Our agents are entrusted with the awesome responsibility to carry firearms; they are police officers and sometimes their job is dangerous. I expect them to be sensitive to the economic investment our licensees have made. We know our actions can have consequences on businesses and we are always mindful of that.
As I close this story I have one more thing to report on the activities of that evening. It may affect only one person, but it is important to me. One of the tickets we wrote affected a hard working young man that had let his license expire. It was only two weeks overdue, but in addition to the administrative citation we wrote, there was a citation written from another jurisdictional authority. Confused about who wrote what and how to take care of this, I get a call regarding “the other ticket.” Respectful and courteous, I hear the confusion in his voice. It would be easy to feel like the government is ganging up on this guy with two tickets for basically the same offense. I personally believe an oversight is much different than willful neglect. I want to be fair and to help people who occasionally make a mistake. My General Counsel is reaching out to the other jurisdiction to apply reason and fairness in this situation, not just assess a penalty because we can.
It is 7:30 p.m. on a Friday night as I turn this article in. The organizers of H & 8th are trying again tonight. The event starts at 8 p.m. and since I missed lunch today, I’m pretty hungry. I think a taco sounds good. I’ll let you know how this one goes, or more likely, you’ll let me know.
The History of 3.2% Beer in Oklahoma
John A. Maisch, General Counsel
Oklahoma ABLE Commission
The Stock Market Crash of 1929 not only obliterated the life savings of millions of Americans and ushered in the Great Depression, it also set into motion the chain of events that would ultimately lead to the repeal of the Eighteenth Amendment.
Franklin Delano Roosevelt swept into the Oval Office in 1932 by a nation hungry for change. He promised a wide range of economic and social reforms, including the repeal of Prohibition. During campaign stops, he would refer to Prohibition as a “stupendous blunder.”
President Roosevelt formally proposed a constitutional amendment that would repeal the Eighteenth Amendment shortly after taking office. No constitutional amendment had ever been repealed outright before this time. Roosevelt got his wish on February 20, 1933, when Congress passed the Twenty-First Amendment and sent it to the states for ratification.
While awaiting ratification, Roosevelt pushed forward with another campaign promise. He touted legislative reform that would redefine those malt beverages containing less than 3.2% alcohol by weight as non-intoxicating beverages, and therefore make the production, distribution, and sale of such beverages exempt from the Eighteenth Amendment.
The Cullen-Harrison Act was signed into law by President Roosevelt on March 23, 1933. Effective midnight, April 7, 1933, beer containing less than 3.2% alcohol by weight was no longer prohibited by the Eighteenth Amendment.
It was reported that 25,000 people gathered around the Anheuser Busch facility in St. Louis and 10,000 crowded around the Schlitz brewery in Milwaukee as midnight approached. Just past midnight, Anheuser Busch sent cases of the non-intoxicating beverage to both President Roosevelt and U.S. Senator Al Smith (N.Y.) on Clydesdale-driven wagons. 
Oklahoman voters would approve their own state referendum reclassifying 3.2% beer as non-intoxicating on July 11, 1933. The state question passed overwhelming by a vote of 224,598 to 129,582 on what was reported the hottest day (107˚) in 43 years.
This article is an excerpt from a webcast presented by John Maisch on behalf of the Oklahoma Bar Association’s continuing legal education program on March 30, 2011. The webcast in its entirety is available through the OBA’s website at www.okbar.org or by calling (405) 416-7006. The OBA has approved the webcast for continuing education and charges $50.00 to view the 50-minute webcast.
October 12, 2011
ABLE COMMISSION HAS MOVED
The ABLE Commission has moved their offices to 3812 N. Santa Fe, Suite 200, OKC, Oklahoma
THE MAIN TELEPHONE FOR THE ABLE COMMISSION WILL REMAIN THE SAME:
(405) 521- 3484 and (405) 521- 6578 FAX.
THE NEW MAILING ADDRESS WILL BE:
OKLAHOMA ABLE COMMISSION
3812 NORTH SANTA FE, SUITE 200
OKLAHOMA CITY, OK 73118
"ABLE Not Party to Liquor Tax Lawsuit"
The ABLE Commission has received inquiries from mixed beverage establishments and the media requesting feedback on a recent civil lawsuit filed in Canadian County by several Oklahoma citizens: Truel et. al v. Aguirre, District Court of Canadian County, Case No. CJ-2011-115. While we issue licenses to mixed beverage establishments, we do not oversee the assessment, collection or remittance of gross receipt taxes by these licensees.
The ABLE Commission is not a Plaintiff or a Defendant in this lawsuit. Consequently, we are not in a position to advise or respond to inquiries from licensees about the allegations contained in the lawsuit. Mixed beverage establishments may wish to consult with private legal counsel.
John A. Maisch, General Counsel
August 15, 2011
THE ABLE COMMISSION
INTRODUCES SEARCHABLE DATABASE FOR ALCOHOL AND TOBACCO COMPLAINTS
JAG GRANT PROVIDES FUNDING FOR COLLABORATIVE EFFORTS FOR REDUCING ALCOHOL SALES TO INTOXICATED PERSONS
The Oklahoma ABLE Commission recently completed a two-year project that provides the public and law enforcement officials an online database to file and search alcohol and tobacco complaints. The database permits law enforcement officials the ability to enter alcohol and tobacco compliance checks that they have conducted in their own jurisdictions.
“This anonymous submission of alcohol and tobacco complaints allows the ABLE Commission to more efficiently assign the complaints for investigation,” stated Director Keith Burt. “Now the public has the capability to monitor some of the activities of the alcohol and tobacco retailers in their communities directly from our web site at www.able.ok.gov.”
This system, in addition with the collaborative efforts of law enforcement officials in Oklahoma and Tulsa counties, is an effort to reduce alcohol and tobacco sales to underage persons and alcohol sales to intoxicated persons. Thanks to a Justice Assistance Grant (JAG) awarded to Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Service (ODMHSAS) and administered through the Oklahoma District Attorneys Council, the ABLE Commission conducted more than 100 over-service checks in Oklahoma and Tulsa counties.
Assisted by Oklahoma’s 17 Area Prevention Resource Centers (APRC), ABLE instructed over 250 alcohol retailers in Responsible Beverage Service and Sales. This 4-hour course concentrated on recognizing valid identifications, early recognition of intoxicated persons and the refusal of service. Statistical data of written tests were scored and analyzed by the OU Health Science Center.
For more information, contact:
Jim Hughes, Assistant Director Oklahoma ABLE Commission (405) 522-2996 email@example.com
Keith Burt, Director, Oklahoma ABLE Commission
LEGISLATIVE REVIEW 2011
The 53rd Oklahoma Legislature has adjourned and as usual we encountered many challenges this past Session. State agencies struggling with declining resources were faced with another round of budget cuts. We are not alone, as large and small businesses throughout Oklahoma and the nation attempt to gain some momentum or simply try to survive.
The Legislature and Governor enacted legislation to streamline government services, including the consolidation of state agencies' information technology services. The ABLE Commission looks forward to contributing to these efforts as we move toward a more efficient state government, without reducing the level of service that licensees have come to expect from their state government.
Unfortunately, the ABLE Commission wasn't immune from the budget cuts that affected nearly every state agency. Legislative leaders and the Governor also struck a budget accord resulting in a 7% decrease ($236,000) in our agency's General Revenue Appropriations. 'This is an equivalent of four full time positions. While we are grateful that most of our funding was left intact, we are still fated with the fact that our agency's budget has been cut by over 20% since 2009.
While our budgets continually decrease, our responsibilities continue to increase. In addition to regulating alcoholic beverages, the ABLE Commission is charged with enforcing the Prevention of Youth Access to Tobacco Act and Oklahoma Charity Games Act. We feel privileged to have been entrusted with these additional responsibilities, but with every budget cut, we are reminded of the challenges of enforcing such diverse missions.
In light of these budget cuts, we are seeking alternate funding solutions as well as cost reductions, where feasible. In short, we remain focused on the task at hand, which is securing the public's safety while providing our licensees with the most prompt service that we can provide. We will continue to rely on your feedback as we continue to implement these changes. If you experience any decrease in service levels from our agency as a result of these budget cuts, we want to know as soon as possible, so that we can address the issue.
Finally, I wanted to take a moment to summarize a few other legislative bills involving alcoholic beverages that were passed by the Legislature and signed into law by the Governor this past session:
Senate Bill 658
Senate Bill 658 created a 2I-member task force to study whether the issue of wine and strong beer sales in grocery stores should be submitted to a vote of the people. The joint Legislative Task Force is composed of state senators, state representatives, citizens-at-large, and representatives from various industries. The Task Force is required to submit its report to the Legislature by February I, 2012.
Senate Bill 529
Senate Bill 529 amended Oklahoma's statutes to require mandatory ignition interlock devices for all DUI convictions where the blood alcohol concentration is aggravated (0.15 BAC or higher), effective November 1,2011. In addition, all drivers convicted of aggravated DUI are required to carry a replacement driver's license containing the phrase, "Interlock Required:'
House Bill 1211
House Bill 1211 amended Oklahoma's social host statutes to establish criminal penalties for those convicted of violating the state's social host laws. Effective November 1, 2011, first and second-time convictions that do not involve great bodily harm or death will be guilty of a misdemeanor. The legislation also affirmed municipalities' authority to enforce low-point beer ordinances, provided those ordinances are not more stringent than those set forth by state law.
Senate Bill 324
Senate Bill 324 lowered the lawful blood alcohol concentration for operators of motorized watercraft from 0.10 BAC to 0.08 BAG, effective July 1, 2011.
The ABLE Commission does not make the laws, it simply enforces them. However, the ABLE Commission will continue to fulfill its obligations and articulate our public safety concerns as required by law. We appreciate the opportunity to share our concerns with elected officials, licensees, and members of the general public, and we are always available to hear your feedback on issues affecting the industry.
The Oklahoma ABLE Commission is pleased with the improvement of the state’s compliance rate of tobacco sales to its youth.
According to Jim Hughes, Assistant Director of the ABLE Commission, this year’s overall statewide compliance rate of 91.08% is up from last year’s 82.43%. The greatest area of improvement was seen in northeastern Oklahoma where, last year, nearly a quarter of convenience stores and grocery stores sold tobacco products to undercover youths. Today, less than 10% of that
area’s tobacco retailers sold to the youth.
The ABLE Commission conducted more than 2000 compliance checks throughout the state, thanks to a grant received from the Oklahoma Tobacco Settlement Endowment Trust (TSET). The grant is administered through the Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Service (ODMHSAS) which coordinates the state’s compliance check program. The ABLE Commission has been statutorily responsible for enforcing the “Oklahoma Prevention of Youth Access to Tobacco Act” since 1994 and has worked with ODMHSAS to perform tobacco compliance checks statewide.
Although we are pleased with the increase, we believe there are still far too many stores that will sell tobacco products to our youths,” stated Assistant Director Hughes. To further aid in its efforts to protect Oklahoma’s youths, the ABLE Commission announces the availability of an online query system. This system, made possible through a Justice Assistance Grant (JAG) administered by ODMHSAS, allows the public to search and submit complaints directly to the ABLE Commission. In addition, it offers law enforcement agencies the opportunity to record the compliance checks they have conducted within their jurisdictions. Access to this database is available through ABLE’s web site at www.able.ok.gov.
Hughes recognized TSET’s and ODMHSAS’s efforts to provide resources and coordination of services for increasing the number of compliance checks as important tools in the battle against youth tobacco use.
For more information, contact:
Jim Hughes, Assistant Director Oklahoma
ABLE Commission (405) 522-2996