On Monday, the Assembly approved A-4700. The vote was 53-24, with one abstention.
The bill, which aims to encourage supermarkets and grocery stores to better serve the residents of ‘food desert’ communities, currently includes a provision that would allow those food retailers to sell alcoholic beverages, for off-site consumption, without consulting local officials, entrusted to protect the public’s rights and interests.
The bill would give food stores that locate in “food deserts” State tax benefits that would equal local property taxes on the property. The bill also allows the State’s Division of Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) to award ‘special retail distribution permits’ to the stores, without the approval of the local governing body.
The League welcomes initiatives that seek to address hunger in our State. We would support efforts to make healthy, nutritious food available to all New Jerseyans. But we have to question the relationship between that goal and the increased availability of alcoholic beverages. And we must oppose any initiative that gives local elected officials no discretion on the matter, while giving that discretion to private businesses, subject only to the profit motive, with no responsibility for the welfare of our citizens.
We must also worry about the possibility that this provision could serve as a precedent for future efforts to circumvent local authority, regarding the increased availability of alcoholic beverages in other municipalities, all around our State.
We hope to meet with the sponsor to discuss the bill’s deficiency, prior to any action in the Senate. In the meantime, please contact your State Senator to express the importance of local control over the sale of alcoholic beverages in New Jersey municipalities. Urge your Senator to oppose A-4700, in its current form.
Contact: Jon Moran, Senior Legislative Analyst, firstname.lastname@example.org, 609-695-3481 x121.