New Mexico House endorses liquor reforms

Legislature

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — The state House of Representatives has endorsed a bill aimed at energizing the hospitality industry in rural New Mexico by relaxing state restrictions on liquor sales.

On a 41-27 vote, the House approved a bill that would expand tastings to craft distilleries and expand restaurant alcohol licenses that meet local ordinances to include not only beer and wine but also spirits with a 10 p.m. cutoff.

The bill also would legalize and regulate alcohol deliveries accompanied by food. It now moves to the Senate for consideration.

Amid concerns about economic stagnation, legislators are wrestling with how to modernize a closely guarded monopoly on licenses for packaged liquor sales that routinely sell for more than $300,000 and serve as family inheritances.

In concessions to vested interests, the proposed legislation offers a $200,000 tax deduction over a four-year period to liquor license holders and waives future annual license fees in perpetuity for license holders and immediate relatives who may inherit licenses.

Lost state income from the tax deduction would be offset by a new 2% excise tax on individual drink sales. Democratic state Rep. Moe Maestas, the bill’s lead sponsor, said the changes are designed to revive small-town economic opportunities and that the value of liquor store licenses will endure. “They have killed similar bills for 39 years,” Maestas said. “We have to modernize.”

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