Governor McAuliffe Vetoes Bill Permitting Sale of High-Proof Grain Spirits
On Monday evening Governor Terry McAuliffe vetoed legislation that would have allowed the sale of high-proof class 1 neutral grain spirits in the Commonwealth of Virginia. The Governor’s decision to veto the legislation stems from his concern, and those expressed by educators and health professionals, about the impact the sale of these inexpensive and flavor- and aroma-neutral products would have on underage drinking and binge drinking on college campuses.
The Governor also issued a letter to the Secretaries of Health and Human Resources, Education and Public Safety and Homeland Security, directing them to develop recommendations on how Virginia could sell these products responsibly, without increasing dangerous underage or binge drinking.
The Governor’s full veto message is below:
March 7, 2016
Pursuant to Article V, Section 6, of the Constitution of Virginia, I veto House Bill 143, which would allow the sale of Class 1 neutral grain spirits or alcohol, as defined by federal regulations, that are without distinctive character, aroma, taste, or color at a proof greater than 101 in government stores.
I put forward an amendment to require a reenactment of the legislation in order to give the legislative and the executive branches further time to study this issue. The amendment requiring reenactment was rejected by the House of Delegates.
The educators and health professionals from across the Commonwealth who have been tasked with reducing harm associated with alcohol abuse on college campuses raised public safety concerns with this legislation. I share their concern that a prime market for these products is young people who are attracted to their high proof and low cost. Underage drinking and binge drinking, particularly on college campuses, are threats to public health and safety that we should be working to curb. Therefore, I continue to believe the best course of action is to study this issue further, with particular focus on the restrictions and strategies implemented by other states that can be codified to reduce potential abuse of such products by young adults and youth, before selling this product in Virginia.
Accordingly, I veto this bill.
Terence R. McAuliffe