state legislature gears up in January, Scott Weiser
is hoping they’ll have liquor on their minds.
Weiser, president of the Iowa
Motor Truck Association, is preparing for a fight over a plan that would have
state employees hauling alcohol instead of private businesses.
It’s a fight that has its roots in post-prohibition era policy.
is one of 19 states
that, since the repeal of prohibition in 1933, directly controls the sale and
distribution of alcoholic beverages.
Until recently, the state’s liquor warehouse – including its
distribution operation – was run by a private company, J.A. Jones. Weiser said that company went bankrupt, at which point the
state took over, bringing in inmates from the Mitchellville state women’s
prison to work the warehouse and hiring drivers – who, of course, became state
employees – to handle the distribution.
Weiser told Land Line that his group objected to this
move because it excluded private trucking companies from getting the business.
“We objected to that in (last year’s) legislative session,” he said.
“Those folks are taking food off the plates of my members.”
The state legislators agreed and passed a ruling that required the
state to open bidding on the operation of the warehouse and the distribution of
the liquor to private companies. The only catch: The state was allowed to
compete in the bidding as well.
While a private company – Crystal Distributing – won the rights to
manage the warehouse, the state won the bid on the rights to the distribution
Weiser said one reason for this
was that the criteria for companies wanting to haul the liquor were such that
nobody in private business could compete.
“We couldn’t have markings on the trucks, we couldn’t co-mingle
product, we had to make backhauls empty,” Weiser
said. “There were a variety of those things that just really made it so that it
was not an attractive piece of business to bid on.”
Weiser said the state also has an
unfair advantage because it has a tax-exempt status and can always offer a
However, Lynn Walding, administrator of the
Iowa Alcoholic Beverages Division, told The
Des Moines Register that any private trucking company could have
obtained tax-free fuel through the state to make the liquor deliveries.
But Weiss said it’s more about the principal of the thing. He said he
worries about what other business the state could take over if a precedent is
“We’re not talking about hundreds of jobs, there’s maybe a dozen,” he
said. “But it’s bad precedent and it’s bad business.”
– By Terry Scruton,