Wyo Liquor

2017 Legislative Updates

2017 proved to be the most action packed Wyoming Legislative Session that we have seen in decades, if ever.  This included sweeping modernization and simplification changes, as well as the demise of five different “sin tax” increases, and an attempt to privatize the Wyoming Liquor Division.  Below is a list of the most pertinent bills.  SF means Senate File, and HB means House Bill, and all successful legislation, unless otherwise noted, is effective July 1, 2017:

SF 45 (Liquor dispensing rooms) will eliminate “dispensing rooms” for all liquor licensees except Restaurant liquor licensees.  Please see the full article in this newsletter for more details.  The WSLA supported this bill.  SF 45 was signed by the Governor into law.

SF 43 (Alcoholic beverages revisions) modifies Wyoming’s alcohol statutes by eliminating or modifying obsolete language and also allows more flexibility for hours of operation.  Please see the full article in this newsletter for more details.  The WSLA supported this bill.  SF 43 was signed by the Governor into law.

SF 13 (Manufactured alcoholic beverages) updates the requirements for Wyoming distilleries and clarifies that a distillery must have an in-state manufacturing facility to hold a satellite location.  It also includes further guidelines for inspections of the manufacturing facility. The WSLA supported this bill.  SF 13 passed into law without the Governor’s signature due to conflict.

SF 14 (Inoperative liquor licenses) clarifies Wyoming statute for inoperational or “parked” Full Retail liquor licenses.  It allows for a two year grace period for these licenses to be operational, and defines operational as being open to the general public for 12 consecutive months unless seasonal operation or a hardship case (such as a fire), when an exemption can be granted by the local licensing authority.  This process may not be repeated, and after the two years, if the statutory requirements aren’t met, the license goes back to the city or county for reissuance.   The WSLA supported this bill.  SF 14 was signed by the Governor into law.

HB 155 (Alcohol administration revisions) would have dissolved the Wyoming Department of Revenue Liquor Division wholesale operations by privatizing the wholesale sale and distribution of wine and spirits to Wyoming retailers.  This would have significantly raised the wholesale cost to retailers, and thereby to our customers, as well as a considerable reduction in selection and delivery.  It also included a 700% state excise tax increase on all alcoholic beverages to partially offset the financial shortfall created by eliminating the Liquor Division wholesale mark-up.  However, the revenue generated from state alcohol excise taxes would have not gone to the General Fund as it currently does, but to the court supervised treatment program account, the tobacco settlement trust fund income account, the Wyoming children’s trust fund, and the juvenile services block grant account.   The WSLA opposed this bill.  HB 155 was killed in the House Revenue Committee.

HB 166 (Alcohol taxation – school funding) would have increased the state excise tax on all alcoholic beverages; on malt beverages by 1000%, wine by 250%, and spirits by 400%.  Of the revenue generated, 22% would have gone to the state General Fund and 78% to the school foundation account.  The WSLA opposed this bill.  HB 166 was killed in the House Committee of the Whole.

HB 274 (Alcohol excise tax) would have increased the state excise tax on all alcoholic beverages by 300%.  The first $2 million generated would have been given to the General Fund, followed by equal amounts to the court supervised treatment account, the Wyoming children’s fund, and the juvenile services block grant account.  The WSLA opposed this bill.  HB 274 was killed in the House Revenue Committee.

SF 155 (Bar and grill liquor license increase) created up to 16 new Bar and Grill liquor licenses in individual Wyoming cities and towns.  The WSLA opposed this bill, and although it eventually passed, we successfully worked to reduce the number of new Bar & Grill liquor licenses created in some cities by over 250%.  In the final version of the bill, Casper, Cheyenne and Laramie gain six new licenses, Gillette gains four, Buffalo, Douglas, Evanston, Green River, Powell, Torrington, and Worland gain three, and Cody, Jackson, Lander, Rawlins, Riverton, Rock Springs, and Sheridan gain two.  SF 155 was signed by the Governor into law.

HB 114 (Service and assistance animals) protects the potential legal liability of any damage or injury caused by a service animal, or an animal they believe in good faith is a service animal, in our businesses.  It also creates a misdemeanor penalty, with a fine up to $750, for an individual who knowingly and intentionally misrepresents an animal as a service animal.  The WSLA supported this bill.  HB 114 was signed by the Governor into law.

HB 96 (Microbrewery permits) would have allowed microbreweries to have three satellite locations around the state as well as allowing dispensing of malt beverages in outside areas owned by the microbrewery.  WSLA opposed the satellite locations, partly due to concerns about conflict with federal tied house laws.  This language was successfully amended out of the bill. The WSLA was neutral on this legislation after the amendment was adopted to remove the satellite locations.  HB 96 died without consideration in the Senate Committee of the Whole.

HB 140 (Minimum wage) would have increased the Wyoming minimum wage to $9.50 an hour.  An exception was made for a temporary “training wage” of $7.50 for employees with under six months of employment.  It would have also raised the “tip credit” minimum wage to $5.50 an hour.  The WSLA opposed this bill.  HB 140 was killed in the House Committee of the Whole.

HB 151 (Cigarette tax) would have raised the state excise tax on a pack of cigarettes by 50%, from 60 cents to 90 cents.  It would have also increased the share of the revenue generated to cities, towns, and counties.  The WSLA opposed this bill.  HB 151 was killed in the Senate Revenue Committee.

HB 168 (Tobacco tax) would have raised the state excise tax on tobacco products by 92%.  For a pack a cigarettes, the tax would have increase from 60 cents a pack to $1.15, and on other tobacco products such as moist smokeless tobacco from 60 cents to $1.15 an ounce.  The revenue generated would have been placed in the public school foundation program account.  The WSLA opposed this bill.  HB 168 was killed in the House Revenue Committee.

HB 179 (Retail liquor license fees) would have allowed the local licensing authority (cities and counties) to auction unissued Full Retail liquor licenses.  The WSLA was neutral on this bill.  HB 179 was killed in the House Corporations Committee.

SF 11 (License revocation process) places the state board of equalization in rare event (only once in the last 20 years) of a state liquor license revocation.  Prior to this, the Department of Revenue was the only involved state entity in the process.  The WSLA was neutral on this bill.  SF 11 was signed by the Governor into law.

SF 104 (Regulation of bingo and pull tab game events) would have created licensure and oversight for those who conduct, manufacture, distribute or supply bingo and pull tab games.  The licensure and oversight would be put under the Wyoming Pari-Mutuel Commission.  WSLA was neutral on the bill, but testified that if such a system were put in place, care would need to be taken to ensure that the licensure is affordable and oversight is fair.  Although SF 104 died in the Senate Travel, Recreation, Wildlife and Natural Resources Committee, it has been set as an Interim topic for study over the remainder of the year by the same Committee.

HB 131 (Disposition of lottery proceeds) removed the cap of $6 million per year for the distribution of lottery proceeds to counties, cities and towns.  Prior to this, although the cap hadn’t been reached yet, all revenues above $6 million were earmarked for the common school account within the permanent land fund.  The WSLA supported this bill.  HB 131 was signed by the Governor into law.

SF 70 (Manufacturing machinery exemption sunset date) moved the sunset date for the tax exemption on manufacturing machinery from December 31, 2017 to December 31, 2027.  Although this bill doesn’t affect most of our WSLA members, it is important for those who manufacture alcoholic products in our state.  The WSLA was neutral on this bill.  SF 70 was signed by the Governor into law.

HB 19 (Sales from remote sellers) extended the requirement for the collection of sales tax to remote sellers as defined by Wyoming Statute 39-15-501.  Although this bill doesn’t directly affect remote alcohol sales (we only allow wine to be direct shipped from out-of-state and the sales tax is included in the mark-up at the Wyoming Liquor Division) it was of interest to our members that sell retail products other than alcohol and tobacco.  The WSLA was neutral on this bill.  HB 19 was signed by the Governor into law.

Should you have any questions regarding the above legislation or anything else, please feel free to contact the Wyoming State Liquor Association at moser@wyoliquor.org or 307.634.6484.