What to charge is not job of the state

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, April 17, 2001

Our View

State leaders need to spend their time making sure the government operates as it should, not telling businessmen and women what to charge.

Many a political deal have been made over drinks.

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Now, the issue of selling beer is making its way into the State House.

State Sen. E. B. McClain, D-Brighton, has introduced legislation that would require businesses selling alcoholic beverages for off-premise consumption to mark up the price at least 15 percent. In other words, it would prevent businesses from selling beer below cost.

The bill is scheduled for a vote by the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee today and we hope it fails because setting the prices of private business is not something the government needs to do.

But, a package store owner in North Alabama is arguing the state should be involved since alcoholic beverages are heavily regulated by the state. For instance, it was the Legislature that set territories for beer distribution.

His argument in favor of the legislation is that grocery stores can sell beer at a loss and make up the difference by marking up the price on other items. The more than 300 private package stores can’t do that because the state restricts what they can sell besides liquor.

Sen. Bobby Denton, D-Tuscumbia, has reportedly said setting minimum retail prices isn’t always feasible. He said one illustration of his point was when the Legislature tried to protect family-owned service stations by prohibiting the sale of gas below cost when oil companies began opening gas stations. Although the small businesses were given allowances, they were eventually put out of business by the large corporations.

Telling businessmen and women what to charge is not the job of state government. Members of the Alabama Legislature need to be concerned with passing budgets that allow schools and other facets of state government to operate as they should.  

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