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Attention convenience store operators in the great state of Georgia: The 60-day grace period for renewing your license to sell beer has been eliminated. You have to have your license for 2006 "on the wall" by January 3, 2006.

"Start your application process in October to allow for delays and hitches,” advises Jim Tudor, president of the Georgia Association of Convenience Stores. “If you're renewing it, do it on the Georgia Department of Revenue's website,”

Charles Willey, director of public information for the Georgia Department of Revenue, can answer any questions; he can be reached at (404) 417-2106.

"Remember," said Tudor, "beer is the No. 2 sales item in c-stores that sell beer, and beer buyers walk out with the largest average check of all in-store categories: $9.72. So get your application in on time to take full advantage of what beer can do for your bottom line."

Tudor also issued a reminder of the upcoming Southern Convenience Store and Petroleum Show, scheduled for August 24th and 25th at the Macon Centreplex Coliseum.

"There will be over 200 exhibitors showing the latest products and services, and admission is free for c-store and petroleum operators,” noted Tudor. “You can register on-site or online at Any questions, call (770)736-9723 and ask for Nancy Bivings."

In Tennessee, retailers are banding together to fight for their rights. Marylee A. Booth, executive director of the Tennessee Oil Marketers Association, said that one of the Association's initiatives for the coming year will be to work with like-minded organizations in a coalition to restore vendor payments of $25 per month for collecting sales taxes, compensation that was eliminated three years ago.

“It's a fairness issue,” declared Booth, “because retailers agreed to give up their compensation to help the state with its budget problems, and now that things have gotten better most fees have been restored, but not ours. We certainly don't think that's fair.

“And besides that,” Booth added, “out-of-state retailers that volunteer to collect the tax are being compensated, while those of us who are required to collect it are not. We intend to see that this is corrected.”

You may have heard tales about the litigiousness of today's society, but here's a new one: A retailer in Texas had to spend $40,000 defending itself against a lawsuit that charged it with selling lottery tickets after the top prize had been awarded -- as if a c-store operator in Lubbock was supposed to know when someone in Abilene had just scratched off the top prize, so he could stop selling tickets.

”We pointed out to the legislature that while the state had immunity from such lawsuits, retailers didn't,” noted Scot Fisher, vice president for policy and public affairs at the Texas Petroleum Marketers and Convenience Store Association. “It was a situation that cried out for remedy, and the legislature came through. It passed a law that goes into effect Sept. 1 of this year, granting immunity to retailers against just such class action suits.”

Another law in Texas is up in the air, however, as we go to press: It involves an increase in cigarette taxes of $1 per pack, bringing the total state tax to $1.41. The amount has been approved by the House and Senate, but disagreements on other provisions of the overall tax bill have yet to be resolved. Fisher expects the final bill to pass by the end of July, with the cigarette tax intact.

Finally, how much can you pressure a governor and state leaders? That's the question in Oklahoma these days, where the fate of many small c-store operators hangs in the balance.

“On January 1 of this year,” said Ron Edgmon, president of the Oklahoma Grocers Association (OGA), “cigarette taxes rose 80 cents in Oklahoma, zooming to $1.03 a pack. Immediately, people rushed to tribal smoke shops to buy their cigarettes since taxes are dramatically lower there.

“As a result -- and the legislature never expected this -- tobacco tax revenues dropped precipitously, which may be a disaster for the state's healthcare system since the 80-cent increase was earmarked specifically for health care.

“Now, we're trying to get the governor to expand the call in the current special session of the state legislature to bring up the issue of leveling the taxes in tribal and non-tribal stores. We hear, however, that he's not willing to do that until he can get the contending sides to agree on a solution. The problem is that when the legislature is in special session, as it is now, the governor has control over the agenda.

“But,” said Edgmon, “we're afraid that if we have to wait till the regular session in February 2006 to introduce the legislation, many small c-store operators may go out of business in the interim because 40 to 60 percent of their revenue depends on cigarette sales.”

And that's the dilemma facing the OGA: How much pressure can it exert on the governor to expand the call in the current special session? “We're lobbying as hard as we can, I can assure you,” said Edgmon. “We're not letting up.”
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