Capitol Considerations by Senator Bill Coleman
Senator Bill Coleman-Ponca City-District 10 - October 21, 2022 6:49 am
Senator Bill Coleman-Ponca City
With just a few weeks left until the deadline to complete interim studies, our committees have been holding numerous meetings. The Business, Commerce and Tourism Committee, which I am currently the vice-chair, has held meetings to examine childcare center regulation and access; utilization of the Clinton-Sherman Industrial Park; and Public Infrastructure Districts (PID).
On Wednesday, we held our last meeting to look at the illegal direct shipment of alcohol, specifically spirits and liquor. I requested this study when I realized that while wine can legally be shipped directly to customers, liquor cannot but it’s still happening across Oklahoma. This is a major problem because excise tax is not being collected on these purchases and the state is losing out on significant tax revenue. It’s also dangerous because the U.S. Postal Service, UPS and other shipping companies have no clue what they’re transporting and are potentially providing liquor to minors because their drivers don’t check IDs when dropping off packages. One of the presentations stated that compliance checks in North Carolina showed that anywhere from 27% to 45% of orders were successfully being delivered to minors. We can’t allow this in Oklahoma. I tested this myself by ordering whiskey and having it shipped to my office at the Capitol. First, alcohol is prohibited in the Capitol so it shouldn’t have made it passed security but the box, as they typically are, was unmarked so no one was aware it was liquor. It was then left at my office without requiring a signature or proof of ID. This has to be addressed in the coming session.
We learned that only five states allow spirit shipping. It appears we need to add a package label and an adult signature requirement for alcohol shipments. It would also be good to require shippers to report their alcohol loads. We also need to authorize specific penalties for those who ship these products illegally as well as those who buy it illegally. Eleven states have a penalty for underage Direct to Consumer (DTC) sales violations, but Oklahoma is not one of them. It was recommended that common carriers be asked to verify one’s license before the package is shipped. The ABLE Commission also needs more enforcement agents because they simply don’t have the manpower to efficiently regulate the entire state.
During the pandemic, the Legislature approved alcohol deliveries from restaurants and bars with strict guidelines from the ABLE Commission. An app was used by some to scan driver licenses, which was then matched with the buyer’s credit card to prevent minors from purchasing alcohol. This app or one similar needs to be used for all liquor shipments.
I want to thank Senior Director of State Affairs Chelsea Crucitti with the Wine and Spirits Wholesalers of America; Dirk Van Veen, vice-chair of the Retail Liquor Association of Oklahoma; Emily Steward, owner of Ranch Acres Wine and Spirits; Stacy Potter, Responsible Beverage Sales & Service (RBSS) project director; Patrick Maroney, president of Maroney Consulting Services; and Andrew Koester, ABLE Commission attorney for sharing their expertise and insight with us on this important issue.
I’m also serving as the co-chair of the Caucus Agenda Committee and have been assigned to the Jim Thorpe Building Repair Expenditure Oversight Committee. Much like the Capitol was, this building is in disarray and needs repairs. This committee will oversee the process and should have bids in place to begin work on the Thorpe building by the end of this year.
Finally, we also had our first meeting of the bipartisan Civil Rights Trail working committee that I’m co-chairing with Sen. Kevin Matthews of Tulsa. It’s our intent to highlight some of Oklahoma’s civil rights involvement on the trail, starting with the Standing Bear Museum in Ponca City, to Fairfax where the Osage reign of terror occurred, through several of Oklahoma’s black towns, then to the Greenwood Rising Museum in Tulsa and eventually ending at the new Clara Luper Center in Oklahoma City.
If you have any questions or comments, you can contact me by calling (405) 521-5581 or emailing [email protected].