Vermont Business Magazine On his first day in office, Governor Phil Scott signed an executive order to merge the state commissions that regulate Liquor and Lottery into a single entity. The House on Tuesday, however, introduced a bill (H525) that would form a committe to study whether to merge Liquor and the Lottery, even while saying that it seems to make sense. Scott does not see the need to delay what he sees as a more efficient single commission. On Wednesday, the House voted 82-63 for a legislative compromise that, according to Speaker Mizi Johnson, encourages moving forward with merging the state Lottery Commission and the Department of Liquor Control. The House will take up a bill next week that establishes a working group to achieve the merger goal. The working group will develop the process changes and critical statutory changes to ensure this merger’s success, she said in a statement.
Scott’s Communications Director Rebecca Kelley today issued the following statement on behalf of the governor:
“In January, Governor Phil Scott signed an executive order to merge the Department of Liquor Control and the Vermont Lottery Commission into a Department of Liquor and Lottery.
“This merger is a simple, commonsense structural change that brings together organizations with similar missions to make the State a better partner to our business community and ultimately enhance the consumer experience. There are numerous benefits to this modernization effort, including enhanced marketing efforts, and increased efficiencies through streamlined permitting and licensing processes, and training and compliance programs. A singular Department will be achieved through a carefully crafted, phased-in approach over the next three months.
“Merging these two organizations has been discussed in the Legislature for a decade, and the Administration is taking the natural next step to execute the merger. Given the historic interest in similar proposals, this policy idea is not – nor should it be – a partisan issue.
“So, it is troubling that the House will take a floor vote tomorrow on a resolution that would rescind the Governor’s executive order, instead choosing to study the issue and, therefore, embrace the status quo. They will be forgoing the opportunity to generate more revenue and savings, and to support businesses and improve customer service throughout the state.
“The Governor recognizes we have an urgent need to address our economic challenges, including a shrinking workforce and a crisis of affordability. He has taken bold actions to innovate and create a 21st century state government, which is essential to growing our economy and making Vermont more affordable.
“Delaying this effort by calling for a study is a waste of time and money that will delay action for years. We owe it to Vermonters to do more, and this merger allows for state government to become more nimble, innovative, and make the most of taxpayer dollars.”
The proposed merger has broad support in the House, Johnson said; however, a more detailed plan for long-term implementation is needed before the merger can move forward.
The Governor’s Executive Order went through several months of committee process in which members of the Governor’s Administration were invited to testify before legislators. Although the General, Housing, and Military Affairs Committee found the concept desirable, it also found that the timing of the merger was hasty and the details were incomplete, Johnson said.
“We agree with this merger in principle, but we need to take our time and make sure that there is a thoughtful, thorough plan in place,” Johnson said. “The Committee conducted comprehensive consideration of the Executive Order. I am supportive of their work on new legislation that establishes a working group to study the best path forward to merge these Departments.”
“The Department of Liquor Control and the Lottery Commission interface with many businesses and many individual Vermonters across the state. I’m excited about the possible efficiencies of a merger and look forward to a thoughtful, thorough process in implementing the change. We need to make sure we get this right.”
The bill (H.525) says, in part:
"The Department of Liquor Control and the State Lottery serve unique and similar roles in Vermont’s government by generating significant revenue for the State through the sales of a controlled product...
"The similarities between the roles and functions of the Department of Liquor Control and the Liquor Control Board, and the State Lottery and the Lottery Commission create the potential for the two entities to merge and collaborate in carrying out their respective functions and missions.
"However, questions exist regarding how the entities’ functions can be successfully merged in a manner that will enhance their efficiency and ability to fulfill their respective roles and missions.
"Accordingly, the General Assembly deems it prudent to create a working group to study the potential creation of a combined Department of Liquor and Lottery and to develop, for legislative review during the second year of the biennium (2018), a plan and proposed legislation to accomplish the merger and creation of the Department of Liquor and Lottery on or before July 1, 2018."
Source: Governor. 4.12.2017. House. 4.11.2017