Regulatory Fun

Anyone who lives and drinks for long enough in the state of Texas becomes aware of TABC. TABC has absolute power over the sale of alcoholic beverages in Texas. It’s also an incredibly bizarre and dysfunctional agency with a set of regulations that are only barely comprehensible. Anyhow, here’s a lovely article from the local weekly about TABC and the Sunset Commission.

For non-Texans, the Sunset Commission reviews state agencies every 12 years to see if the agency is still needed or needed in the current form. I am encouraged that the commission has made some pretty on-target recommendations in the Staff Report. The chapter headings alone should give you a clue:
TABC Lacks the Clear Focus and Strategic Direction Needed in Today’s Alcoholic Beverage Regulatory Environment

TABC Does Not Manage Its Enforcement Activities to Best Protect the Public’s Safety

Over-Regulation of Certain Business Practices Serves No Consumer Interest, Imposes Unnecessary Costs on the Industry, and Creates Excessive Burdens for the Agency

TABC Lacks an Effective Approach for Resolving Key Marketing Practices Regulatory Issues, Resulting in Inconsistent Enforcement and Unnecessary Costs to the Industry

TABC Lacks a Consistent and Formal Approach to Investigating and Resolving Complaints Against Its Employees

Texas Has a Continuing Need for the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission
I think I disagree with that last one, but the rest seem like accurate criticsims to me. Of course, as the article points out, the way the system is currently structured makes certain parties a bunch of money. So the chances of the system changing anytime soon are pretty slim. I can dream, however.

Of course, Texas also has a weird patchwork of “wet” and “dry” areas due to the vagaries of local regulation. As an example, in the “front” half of my town you can’t sell alcoholic beverages at all. You can sell package only in the “back” half. Nowhere in town can you buy a drink. All the bars are in the next town. Given that the entire town consists of a single zip code, it’s not like the next town is very far. This is distinct from the approach taken by Angelina County and other locales, where package sales are illegal, and drink service is only available to members of a “private” club. Alcohol laws are insane in most states, but Texas takes it to absurdity some days.

I like the Louisiana model much better. Any state that has drive-through daiquiri shops and Jack Daniels at the gas stations has the right idea.


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