Tuesday, March 22, 2011

HB 602 and 660: Texas Brewers Make Their Case

Texas brewers went to the state House Licensing and Administrative Procedures Committee today and made their case in favor of House Bills 602 and 660.

Now, normally I wouldn't wish sitting through a committee hearing of the Texas Legislature on my worst enemy, but seriously: If you're a lover of our state's craft beer and interested in these bills, you should watch the entire hearing on HB 660. (The HB 602 portion is less interesting because it had no opposition.) Click here and go to 26:35, when the 660 testimony begins.

Why would you want to do a thing like that? Because unlike most hearings, which are tedious and filled with technical mumbo-jumbo and good cures for insomnia, this was exactly the opposite: The proponents of 660 (including many beer distributors) were clear and concise in making their points, very effective. By contrast, the opposition — that is, the Wholesale Beer Distributors of Texas lobbying group, and no one else — were completely ineffective. I don't say that just because I support the bill, I actually mean that objectively. I really expected WBDT's attorney to get up and say something devastating, some bit of logic we hadn't thought of before, that would send 660 supporters scrambling for a counter-argument. It never happened.

The supporters' case:
  • It's good for Texas businesses, and will end the state's current discrimination against its own brewers in favor of out-of-state ones. It was hilarious to watch El Paso Rep. Chente Quintanilla struggle to comprehend why non-Texan brewpubs can sell their beer in Texas stores, but Texas brewpubs can't. I'd say mark him down as a supporter.
  • And if it's good for Texas business, then it's good for tax revenue, which the state badly needs right now.
  • The bill would actually put more money in the hands of distributors, which is why the Beer Alliance of Texas, another distributor lobbying group, favors it.
  • Brewpubs in other states have grown to be national success stories, such as California's Bear Republic. That will never happen if HB 660 does not pass.
The opposition's case seemed to be: The three-tier system should be preserved exactly as it is because … it just should. Seriously, that was really it. The WBDT attorney's main point was that the three-tier regulatory scheme divides manufacturers from distributors from retailers, and that brewpubs are retailers, and should not be allowed to have legal status as manufacturers. Bill author Mike Villarreal of San Antonio pointed out the obvious: “House Bill 660 will allow Texas brewpubs to be recognized for who they are. They manufacture beer.”

Now, go write to your state legislators (and the committee members) and tell them you want these bills passed.


Anonymous said...

Apparently, Anheuser-Busch is not a fan of HB 602.


Lee said...

Yup. I also reported that here: http://i-love-beer.blogspot.com/2011/05/hb-660-is-dead-hb-602-hits-hurdle.html