House Bill 602, the bill that would allow Texas microbrewers to give away take-home samples of their beer at the end of a paid-admission brewery tour, is on the "intent" calendar in the Texas Senate today. That means it could come to the floor for debate. If you'd like to watch the Senate session and can't make it to the Capitol, you can view it here. Also, if you live in Austin, you can watch it on cable channel 22. The session begins at 11am, but there's no way to know when 602 will come up, if at all.
If you've been following this drama, you know this has been a long, hard slog — several tries to allow actual retail sales on brewery premises have failed over the years (despite the fact that wineries are allowed to do so), and this bill is a compromise to appease the powerful Wholesale Beer Distributors of Texas lobbying group, which blocked those previous efforts. This bill is not ideal, but it's a step in the right direction.
And the bill is not out of the woods yet. Although it passed the House easily, brewing big boy Anheuser-Busch objected to it in Senate committee, saying that language limiting the bill's privileges only to brewers that produce not more than 75,000 barrels per year discriminates against it. And frankly, I suspect even the slightest change in language will cause WBDT to turn against it. Also troubling: The bill was recommended for the "local & uncontested" calendar, where uncontroversial bills get sent to near-certain passage. Instead, it ended up on the "intent" calendar, which means someone wants to actually debate it.
And even if it does pass, then it has to get past the veto pen of Gov. Rick Perry. Yes, there are still plenty of landmines still in the path of this bill becoming law. Stay tuned.
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