Legislature mullspost-Prohibition law

December 7,

In dealing with the problem of liquor control the special session of the Minnesota legislature has several alternatives before it. When it became apparent that the 18th Amendment was headed for an early demise, scores of studies were launched, some objective and disinterested, and others representing the views of party groups, social groups and economic interests.
In many states, Minnesota included, special commissions were appointed to make a study of the problem of liquor control, and, by their efforts, to guide the legislatures. During the next two weeks it is the task of the Minnesota legislature to select from this enormous accumulation of data that plan which it deems best suited to the social, economic and political needs of the state.
Generally speaking there are three types of control which may roughly be classified as follows:
ù Centralized State Control — Under a centralized state control system the state retains complete control over all phases of the liquor traffic, whether it be the manufacture, distribution or retail sale. This centralized control may be exercised in several ways. The state may itself go into the liquor dispensing business through state-owned stores. This plan has already been adopted by the states of Delaware and Montana and Minnesota Governor Floyd B. Olson has recommended it in his message to the special session.
As another means of centralized state control the state may establish a central control commission in which is vested authority to license, regulate and control all phases of the liquor traffic, and which is given wide enforcement powers. Such a plan necessarily means that power of the local government units is restricted; they have no authority, for example, to determine the amount of the license fee, who shall be eligible to receive licenses, etc. However, their interest in the problem is sustained by means of rebates granted by the state to the local units. Although they do not collect the license fees, a certain per cent of all moneys received by the state (from licenses and gallonage taxes) is returned to them. The study commission, appointed by Governor Olson, recommended such a plan for Minnesota.
ù Central-Local Control — Some of the states have already adopted means of liquor control, although the majority of them seem to prefer centralizing state control. Under a central local system the state retains control over some of the traffic, usually the manufacturing and wholesale distribution and the taxation of liquors, but allows the local units to control the retail sale. Governor Olson recommended this system, in part, when he suggested that the legislature, in case it found a state dispensary distasteful, give the state the power to license and regulate the manufacturers, wholesalers, and retail “off-sale” distributors, but to allow the local units to license retail “on-sale” distributors.
The commission, appointed by him, has strongly opposed to any such divided authority; it prevents the state from having any unified policy and encourages the municipalities to enter into competition for the retail business. In the event that Minneapolis, under such a plan, had different hours of sale proportionately, and placed fewer restrictions on dispensers, St. Paul would either have to meet or better these requirements, or resign itself to a nightly hegira of St. Paul citizens.
ùLocal Control — This is a type of control plan which was sometimes used before the adoption of the 18th Amendment. A state operating under this arrangement would delegate all the power to regulate and control the liquor traffic to the local units. This plan multiplied and accentuated the difficulties mentioned under the central-local plan, and, as yet, has not been seriously considered as a possible solution of the problem by any state.
In addition to choosing the general scheme of control, the legislature must also choose between alternatives with references to such problems as “off-sale” and “on-sale” retail distribution, who should be given either or both of these privileges, county option, and other similar problems incidental to the problem of liquor control.
The governor, in his message, recommended that if the state store plan was adopted, it should be restricted to “off-sale” only and that no “on-sale” should be provided. The commission, appointed by the governor, recommended that both “off-sale” and “on-sale” be legalized. Those who favor the former plan of retail distribution believe that any kind of “on-sale” means the return of the saloon.
On the other hand, the proponents of “on-sale” distribution are of the opinion that it is the only means of driving the speakeasy out of business. Because of the fact that drinking is social habit, and it adds much to the pleasure derived from a good meal, “on-sale” proponents feel that unless the sale of liquors, by the glass, is allowed in restaurants and hotels, it will be sold by the glass at Tom’s place. The governor’s commission was of the opinion that by strict definition of restaurant and hotel, and by the requirement of a high surety bond, it would not be possible for a hotel or restaurant operator to make the dispensing of liquor his principal business.
Undoubtedly there is a wide division of opinion in the legislature on the problem of county option. The commission’s recommendation, that county option be restricted to a decision on “on-sale” only, has been objected to a wide attack by the dry members of the legislature. Under the commission’s plan an “off-sale” store would be established in any municipality wherein the local governing body approved of such a store. Such store, if approved, would remain even though the county voted “dry” in a county option election. The effect of such a vote would be to abolish all “on-sale” dispensing.
The commission was of the opinion that complete county option would but duplicate the evils and problems of national prohibition, albeit on a much smaller scale. It was felt, however, that the compromise offered would be the most satisfactory, not only because it is politically expedient, but also because it would tend to drive our illicit dispensers in counties which were “dry” by county option.