Tuesday, October 12, 2010

1100 and 1105

Back to the slog. You guys SO have to buy me a beer after this, because these two initiatives make me want to start drinking.

If I-1053 is the Mad Hatter and I-1082 is the March Hare, I's 1105 and 1107 are the Tweedledee and Tweedledum of this particular tea party. Similar initiatives with the same stated goals slugging it out in public.

The goal of both initiatives is to put the state liquor stores out of business. In Washington state, hard liquor (but not beer or wine) are only available at state-run venues. Obviously, this is yet another case of the government getting all up in your grill and telling you what you can and cannot do, and saddles you with horrible, horrible bureaucracy.

Is it that bad? No, not really. In fact, the liquor control board does pretty well, and the limited amount of booze dispensers has not turned us into a dreary prison camp suitable only for mocking by Banksy at the start of The Simpsons. I am originally from Pennsylvania, and if you want badly-run state liquor, that's your utopia. The only question when I visit Pittsburgh is whether the latest scandal revolves around the State Stores or the Allegheny County Coroner's Office. But I digress.

No, the state of Washington's crime is apparently that they are standing in the way of OTHER people making money off booze, and that's why we have this terrible twosome on the ballot, depending on who wants to be standing beneath the downspout when the money storm starts.

I-1100 gets the state out of direct sales and distribution by allowing anyone, for a fee, to become a liquor distributor, including would-be liquor retailers. That means a large operation that can operate on economies of scale count make a deal with wholesalers, then sell it themselves or distribute to smaller operations. This one has strong support from large operations like Costco.

I-1105 gets the state out of direct sales and distribution but keeps the distributors and retailers as separate provinces and allows the state to set price controls. This one if favored by the smaller distributors who would be hurt by the landrush that I-1000 would create.

Both are pretty foolish initiatives, consisting of powerful interests who are looking for a big payday at the expense of everybody else. The state will lose money on the deal at a time when cash is tight - the only question is how much. Worse yet, if both pass, we have no procedure for resolving two competing initiatives that affect the same issue. AND, if we pass the I-1053, any rejiggering of the state system could be seen as a new tax and require the massive mega-majority.

I don't think these two are doing to do well. In the first place, their differences are so nuanced (and I had to do some digging to figure out which did what) that most voters will shoot them both down. Second, Washington has always had a problem with voter-approved sin (the first Initiative back in 1914 was a Prohibition initiative (which passed)). Third, it is easier to mobilize a push against BOTH amendments than either individual one. And lastly, that push, for all of its wrapping in protecting communities and maintaining state services, has its own sugar daddies - the beer and wine distributors, who will see their market share get seriously impacted if they have to share shelf space with hard liquor.

Now, if you want to read a really poorly-written, poorly-researched article in FAVOR of this mess, head over this Stranger article, and read the comments as its few facts are disassembled. After all the yelling, it all boils down to a desire to be able to buy liquor at 7 PM on a Sunday. And as writers and other professional alcoholics will tell you, if you run out booze before you run out of weekend, that's just poor planning on your part.

I-1105 is better than I-1100, but in the end, both are bad ideas. No to the pair of them.

More later,