One California lawmaker wants to see the state’s alcoholic beverage laws simplified, if for no other reason than to stop wasting the legislature’s time. Assemblyman Chris Norby, R-Irvine, was in a committee hearing in which one community college district sought an exemption from the state’s ban on drinking alcohol on school campuses during special events. Traditionally, exemptions to California’s liquor laws have been requested one entity at a time.  Norby realized, after listening to the debate, that every individual school district was going to have to come to the Legislature and ask for this separately, and he thought, why should they? So he introduced AB 319, which extends the exception to all community colleges so long as the event is approved by the college governing boards.

Three counties already have an exception for special events on community college campuses. These exceptions aren’t the only ones on the books; there are other narrow exceptions. Wine is OK on campus if it is part of an instructional program in viticulture and enology. Beer or wine that’s part of a culinary arts course is also acceptable. Alcohol is allowed at football games and other events at a “college-owned or operated veterans’ stadium with a capacity of over 12,000 people, located in a county with a population of over 6 million.” Only Los Angeles has a population over 6 million.

More than 15 alcohol-related bills have been introduced this session. Much of alcohol-related legislation centers on what are known as the state’s “tied house” laws. Those laws, enacted more than 70 years ago, are aimed at preventing manufacturers from dominating local retail markets and using aggressive marketing to create excessive sales of alcohol. At the core of California’s “tied house” is a series of prohibitions beginning with Business and Professions Code Section 25500, which boils down to this: there must be some separation between manufacturers and retailers. But ever since its enactment, there have been several exceptions to the ban.

Here are some of the other alcohol-related bills proposed this term:

*SB 346 by Sen. Tom Harmon, a Huntington Beach Republican, would add gondola rides to limousines and hot air balloon rides, which can offer alcohol without getting a license.

*AB 351 by Assemblyman Wes Chesbro, a Eureka Democrat, would allow vintners and beer makers to talk to license holders about the “composition” of their products. The law now says manufacturers can only talk about the “history, nature, values and characteristics” of beer and wine.

*AB 623 by Assemblyman Das Williams, a Santa Barbara Democrat, would create a new type of off-sale wine license for wine sold through the Internet, direct mail or by telephone.

*SB 487 by Sen. Gloria Negrete-McLeod, a Chino Democrat, would allow nonprofits or other groups who obtain temporary licenses for special events or fundraisers to return unopened or unsold beer to who they purchased it from.

These bills can be tracked via the legislative counsel website.


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