DALLAS, TX – The Fifth Annual Center for Alcohol Policy (CAP) Alcohol Law Symposium began today with a welcome by CAP Advisory Council members Patrick Lynch, former Rhode Island attorney general, and Jim Hall, former National Transportation Safety Board chairman, who emphasized the Symposium’s value as a gathering of state alcohol regulators, public health advocates, members of the alcohol beverage industry and others interested in alcohol policy issues.
“This is an opportunity for a lot of different folks with different backgrounds to gather under one roof and have a civil debate on an important and timely subject,” Hall said.
Maryland Attorney General and National Association of Attorneys General (NAAG) President Doug Gansler delivered a keynote address on the role state attorneys general play in regulatory, law enforcement and public health functions. Specifically, he emphasized the role attorneys general play in protecting the public and children from the abuses of alcohol.
Attorney General Gansler referenced the 21st Amendment and stressed the importance of alcohol laws being made and enforced at the state level, with each state’s attorney general serving as “the watchdog in this arena,” as they work to enforce the laws passed by state legislatures. “Our job as attorneys general is not to make the law but to enforce the law. When state legislatures pass a law, we defend it,” he said.
He cited the importance of a balanced approach to alcohol regulation and the involvement of parents, law enforcement, industry members and others in policy discussions at the state level surrounding underage drinking and drunk driving prevention, taxation rates for different types of alcohol beverages, as well as labeling and marketing practices involving flavored malt beverages or “alco-pops.”
Symposium attendees also heard from pollster Chris Wilson of Wilson Perkins Allen Opinion Research, who detailed findings of a new bipartisan national poll conducted on behalf of the CAP on public attitudes toward alcohol policy. “Americans do not think alcohol is just another consumer product,” Wilson said. “Americans still strongly support state regulations on alcohol.”
Wilson outlined poll data indicating that Americans support state restrictions on alcohol that are not found on other consumer goods; Americans believe that local businesses that understand the local community should manage local alcohol distribution and sales; and Americans do not want to replicate the United Kingdom’s disastrous experience with alcohol deregulation. The survey findings are available online at www.CenterforAlcoholPolicy.org.
CAP Advisory Council member Jerry Oliver; former state alcohol regulator and former police chief in Pasadena, California, Richmond, Virginia, and Detroit, Michigan; moderated a panel on “The Impact of Alcohol Regulation on Local Law Enforcement,” which featured Frank Lyons, retired officer from the Maine Bureau of Liquor Enforcement; Andy Acord, deputy chief of the Dallas Police Department; and Sgt. Jermaine Galloway of the Boise Police Department. While law enforcement are on the front lines of enforcing alcohol policies in local communities, too often their input and expertise is not sought before new laws are passed. The panelists stressed the importance of involving law enforcement early on in discussions surrounding changes to alcohol policies.
A panel on “The Latest on Drunk Driving Issues” featured an update from Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) National President Jan Withers and General Counsel John Ansbach, who described the components of the Campaign to Eliminate Drunk Driving included in the federal transportation bill as well as state initiatives involving ignition interlock devices and sobriety checkpoints.
Alcohol regulators, public health advocates and alcohol law attorneys also spoke on panels that discussed public health and alcohol, the STOP Act, alcohol deregulation by defunding and alcohol litigation against the states.
The Fifth Annual CAP Alcohol Law Symposium continues Tuesday, September 11, at The Fairmont Dallas in Dallas, Texas. Additional details regarding speakers, education session topics and the Symposium agenda can be found at www.centerforalcoholpolicy.org.
For live updates from the event, follow @AlcoholPolicy on Twitter using the hashtag #CAPLaw.
The Center for Alcohol Policy is a 501c(3) organization whose mission is to educate policy makers, regulators and the public about alcohol, its uniqueness and regulation. By conducting sound and scientific-based research and implementing initiatives that will maintain the appropriate state-based regulation of alcohol, the Center promotes safe and responsible consumption, fights underage drinking and drunk driving and informs key entities about the effects of alcohol consumption. For more information, visit www.centerforalcoholpolicy.org or follow the Center on Twitter at www.twitter.com/AlcoholPolicy.