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appear to be evasions of the law, as soon as the same can be done with the force at my disposal.
I am pleased to state that several of those evading payment of the State tax, while paying United States tax, have promptly taken out State certificates when a demand has been made therefor,
What the facts may have been as to this matter during years past is unknown to this Department, but the surprise evinced by some of the parties selling under United States licenses, when called on to pay a State tax, indicates that they were unaccustomed to such demands or payment.
ATTORNEYS AND THEIR SERVICES. The law provides that the Commissioner may appoint an attorney, in each county, to act with the county treasurer or deputy commissioner in the prosecution or defense of actions or proceedings under the provisions of the act. Although authorized, I have not found it necessary to make such appointments, except in the counties containing first class cities, viz.: Erie, Kings and New York.
In all other counties of the State I have been able to accomplish the manifest intention of the Legislature and protect the State's interest by designating attorneys to represent the respective county treasurers and this Department, as cases requiring such service arose; also utilizing in this line, as far as practicable, the Special Agents, of whom the Department has a few who are counselors-at-law.
Issuing certificates through county treasurers and special deputies, with the reports, returns and accounting incidental thereto, has been found to be a work of greater magnitude than was at first anticipated, and many perplexing questions have arisen as to the rights of applicants, adjacent owners, assignees, receivers, judgment creditors, heirs at law, lost certificate owners and others interested.
The matter of payment of refunds provided by law, which will be hereafter discussed, has caused the most difficulty; but, every. thing considered, for such radical changes in the methods of dealing with such an extended and enormous business, the new system has worked satisfactorily in the assessment and collection of the tax.
Very great misapprehension seems to exist as to that feature of the law which takes from the county treasurer and other officials issuing tax certificates the discretionary power of granting or refusing the same. Many people consider it the duty of the Department, through its officials, and particularly its special agents, to investi. gate, hear statements pro and con, and decide upon the rights of applicants before a certificate is granted.
The Department has ruled, from its organization, that the theory and intention of the Liquor Tax Law is that the applicant must assume the responsiblity and furnish the facts which entitle him to a tax certificate; that if he conforms to the act in making the requi. site statements, produces the consents required in certain cases, files a bond which is correct in form with sufficient sureties, and pays the tax, the said officer “shall at once issue a certificate;" that the law expressly intends to limit the discretion of the officer issuing the certificate to passing upon the correctness of the form of the application and bond and sufficiency of the sureties. This being done, the certificate must be issued, unless the officer has evi. dence at the time of presentation of the application that the appli.
cant is debarred by being under some of the disabilities named in sections 22, 23 and 24, which provide who can not hold certificates; or some other facts appear on the face of the papers which defeat his application.
There is nothing in the act which shows that it was the intention of the Legislature that Special Agents or other officials should be sent out to make investigations or inspections before issuing the tax certificate. The whole theory of the act is against any such contention.
The opposite construction would re-inject into the law the feature of placing the discretion with some person to refuse or grant certificates to applicants, the exercise of which power, or 80-called discretion, gave rise to notorious abuse under the old system and enabled excise boards and their employees to use this discretion for personal and political purposes; to avoid which was one of the main objects of passing the present law. Any other interpretation of this question would require the employment of hun. dreds of agents or inspectors to make possible such preliminary inspection, in the 38 cities and 943 towns of the State, within a period of two months.
COMPLAINTS, ACTIONS AND PROSECUTIONS. The results of investigations as to violations of the law and prosecutions therefor, as well as civil actions brought under the law, are shown in the following statement, viz.: Verified complaints submitted to district at.
torneys for prosecution ................... Convictions reported by county clerks........ 25 Convictions not reported by county clerks.. 53
Certificates cancelled on order of court.............
The Department has not full information as to the amount of fines actually paid, on account of incomplete returns from county clerks. The amount paid to the State Treasurer, to November 1, 1896, is...........
It has been the policy of the Department not to interfere with local officials in the execution of the law, but to give such help as is within its province and power, when requested. Neither has it allowed it to be understood, where local officers were disposed to ignore evasions and wink at violations, that there would be no further effort for enforcement of the law.
Whenever local officials have asked for assistance to detect suspected evasions, it has been furnished, if possible, and whenever responsible citizens or law-abiding dealers have furnished good. faith complaints, they have been investigated and followed up, if warranted by the evidence, as soon as it could be done.
All complaints made through Special Agents have been first submitted to the Department counsel before being forwarded to district attorneys for prosecution, with the intention that those officials should not be burdened with the examination of trivial or technical infractions of law, neighborhood quarrels or personal grievances. The results of these complaints, when presented to grand juries, so far as acted upon and known, have been quite similar to like complaints under former excise laws, viz.: depending largely upon the prevailing sentiment of the locality, but more especially upon the character and prejudices of juries and court officials.
In some localities it is evident that juries have more or less prejudice against convicting for offenses against the Liquor Tax Law, availing themselves of which, offenders escape punishment. This prejudice is by no means a new growth, and is not so much against the taxation of the traffic as against police regulations, with which for ages it has been deemed necessary for the welfare and protection of society to circumscribe and limit it. Nothing shows this more plainly than the cheerful alacrity with which liquor dealers of all grades and conditions pay the United States tax, which is coupled with no restrictive conditions or harsh penalties, except for non-payment of the assessment.
No difficulty whatever in the administration of the law has been met with from reputable dealers, whose traffic is open and legitimate. They sustain and obey the law, asking no special favors from any source. This class of certificate holders is the most anxious of any that the law be fairly and impartially administered. It is for their pecuniary interest that it should be so, and, as lawabiding citizens and taxpayers, they claim protection against the illegitimate competition and annoyance of crooked dealers.
COLONIAL LAWS AND ORDINANCES RELATING TO LIQUOR
TRAFFIC. I have prepared and furnished herewith, as an Appendix to this report, a complete transcript of all legislative acts and colonial ordinances or regulations showing the history of the liquor