Sen. Peter Micciche, R-Soldotna, shown in this Jan. 26, 2016 photo, is expected to be the key figure this year as long-awaited reforms to Alaska's alcohol laws reach the Legislature.

Sen. Peter Micciche, R-Soldotna, shown in this Jan. 26, 2016 photo, is expected to be the key figure this year as long-awaited reforms to Alaska's alcohol laws reach the Legislature.

Alcohol legislation poised for big push

Sen. Peter Micciche, R-Soldotna, is expected to be the key figure this year as long-awaited reforms to Alaska’s alcohol laws reach the Legislature.

Since 2012, members of the Alaska Alcoholic Beverage Control Board and stakeholders from across Alaska have been redrafting Title 4, the chapter of state statute that regulates “the manufacture, barter, possession, and sale of alcoholic beverages in the state.”

“We’ve been working on … I don’t want to say revising so much as bringing Title 4 into the new millennium,” said Bob Klein, chairman of the ABC board.

Much of Title 4 hasn’t been updated since 1980, and during that time, the alcohol industry has changed dramatically. When Alaskan Brewing opened for business on Dec. 26, 1986, it was the first successful craft brewery in modern Alaska history. Now, there are more than 35 across the state.

They’ve been joined by craft distilleries and a surge in the number of restaurants and seasonal businesses seeking alcohol licenses. The number of liquor-license applicants rose 20 percent in the past year alone, said Cynthia Franklin, director of the Alaska Alcohol and Marijuana Control office.

Franklin said she believes at least part of that surge is coming from businesses seeking to get “public convenience” licenses before they’re eliminated.

Micciche introduced Senate Bill 99 in 2014 to implement the Title 4 revisions, but that bill didn’t move from the Labor and Commerce committee to which it was referred. A companion version, House Bill 185, was submitted by Rep. Bob Herron, D-Bethel, but that also didn’t move from its committee of first referral.

In 2015, Micciche stripped some elements from SB 99 and put them into the new Senate Bill 165. That bill passed both houses of the Legislature and was signed into law by the governor. SB 165 reduced underage drinking penalties so they no longer result in the loss of a driver’s license, and fines can be reduced through Youth Court or taking alcohol education classes.

SB 165, while incorporating some of the recommendations of the commmittee convened to review Title 4, left most of the particularly contentious items alone.

Among the committee’s recommendations:

• Increase alcohol license fees (they haven’t risen since 1980);

• Consolidate licenses (get rid of brewpub and bottling works licenses) and to compensate, create add-on sampling ability to brewery and distillery licenses;

• Let breweries and distilleries hold a restaurant license as well;

• Allow growler-filling stations at liquor stores to give out samples;

• Increase penalties for liquor license-holders who violate the law;

• Change the makeup of the ABC board;

• Increase efforts to stop bootlegging.

“Sen. Micciche’s pretty determined to get as much of that through as possible,” said Cynthia Franklin, director of the Alaska Alcohol and Marijuana Control Office.

Franklin and Klein each said the work of the Title 4 review committee is done, and the issue is now in the hands of the Legislature.

“All the hurdles have been cleared now, and it’s mostly a case of just doing the legal mumbo-jumbo,” Klein said.

Danny Hartley works the variety pack boxing line at the Alaskan Brewing Company on Jan. 14, 2016. Much of Title 4, which regulates alcohol sales, hasn't been updated since 1980, and during that time, the alcohol industry has changed dramatically.

Danny Hartley works the variety pack boxing line at the Alaskan Brewing Company on Jan. 14, 2016. Much of Title 4, which regulates alcohol sales, hasn’t been updated since 1980, and during that time, the alcohol industry has changed dramatically.

More in News

The Aurora Borealis glows over the Mendenhall Glacier in 2014. (Michael Penn / Juneau Empire File)
Aurora Forecast

Forecasts from the University of Alaska Fairbanks’ Geophysical Institute for the week of Feb. 5

Chunks of ice break off the Perito Moreno Glacier, in Lake Argentina, at Los Glaciares National Park, near El Calafate, in Argentina's Patagonia region, March 10, 2016. As glaciers melt and pour massive amounts of water into nearby lakes, 15 million people across the globe live under the threat of a sudden and deadly outburst flood, a new study finds. (AP Photo / Francisco Munoz)
Study: 15 million people live under threat of glacial floods

More than half of those are in just four countries: India, Pakistan, Peru and China.

A porcupine dines in mid-August near the Mendnehall Glacier. (Ben Hohenstatt / Juneau Empire File)
On the Trails: Putting a finer point on porcupines

Plants such as roses and devil’s club aren’t the only prickly ones…

(Michael Penn / Juneau Empire File)
Police calls for Tuesday, Feb. 7, 2023

This report contains information from law enforcement and public safety agencies.

Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire 
Edward Richards, left, a high school student in the Sitka School District, talks about the lack of mental health services in Alaska’s public schools as part of the testimony also offered by district Superintendent Frank Hauser, center, and student Felix Myers during a Senate Education Meeting on Monday at the Alaska State Capitol. The committee is proposing a 17% increase in the state’s school funding formula, which was remained essentially flat since 2017.
School’s in at the Capitol

Students and education leaders from around state make case for more classroom cash.

Folks at the Alaska State Capitol openly admit to plenty of fish tales, but to a large degree in ways intended to benefit residents and sometimes even the fish. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)
The bizarre bills other state legislatures are considering

Alaska’s Legislature isn’t mulling the headline-grabbers some statehouses have in the works.

This photo shows snow-covered hills in the Porcupine River Tundra in the Yukon Territories, Canada. In July 1997, a hunter contacted troopers in Fairbanks, Alaska, and reported finding a human skull along the Porcupine River, around 8 miles (13 kilometers) from the Canadian border. Investigators used genetic genealogy to help identify the remains as those of Gary Frank Sotherden, according to a statement Thursday, Feb. 2, 2023, from Alaska State Troopers. (AP Photo / Rick Bowmer)
Skull found in ‘97 in Interior belongs to New York man

A skull found in a remote part of Alaska’s Interior in 1997… Continue reading

(Michael Penn / Juneau Empire File)
Police calls for Saturday, Feb. 4, 2023

This report contains information from law enforcement and public safety agencies.

Most Read