Senator John Carona's Bill Could Raise Cost of Beer Across State

Categories: Brews News

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On Tuesday morning the Business and Commerce Committee convened at the capitol in Austin to discuss, among other things, the future of beer in the state of Texas. In the front of the room, some of Texas' most powerful state senators sat behind their nameplates at a long curved table. Facing them in the back of the room stood some of Texas' most popular craft brewers, trimmed out in dark suits and starched white shirts.

For years Texas craft brewers have made trips to the capitol to plead their case for a tweaks to the three-tired system that shapes alcohol code, changes they say would better accommodate the modern market place but in the past have been fought by established wholesalers and giant breweries that make their livings off the existing system. Still, this session looked promising. Legislators and representatives from across the industry had been meeting over the past year to work on legislation that could open the taps for craft brewers. There shouldn't have been any surprises.

See also:
- Dallas Senator John Carona Files Bill that Would Close a Tap for Craft Brewers

But there was -- a big one that could raise the cost of six-packs statewide or perhaps bring a whole body of carefully crafted compromises crashing down. Again.

Chairman of the committee, Senator John Carona of Dallas, noticed the large crowds amassed in the back of the room and, seeking to quell a bit of tension in the air, addressed the group and asked them not to worry.

"Take a deep breath," were his exact words.

The nerves are understandable. Years of negotiation and work have been put into this. In the last legislative session, the craft brewers went home empty-handed after their bills died in committee.

After that session, Carona created "working groups" to hash out all these issues. It was a great show of leadership -- everyone get in a room, work it out, figure out your differences, find compromises. All the parties involved had more than a year to work on it.

The result was four bills authored by Senator Kevin Eltife of Tyler and introduced two weeks ago. Collectively, the bills cover most of the main issues, like allowing brewers to sell a small amount of beer at their breweries and letting brewpubs sell beer at the retail level, things not allowed under the current system with its strict segregation of manufacturers who sell to distributors who sell to retailers who sell to you.

Brock Wagner of Saint Arnold's Brewing Co. took a seat at a small table in front of the committee to voice his support of Eltife's bills:

"Over 100,000 people visited our brewery last year," said Wagner, "but we weren't allowed to sell them a single drop of beer. If we were able to capitalize on that, even minimally, it would have a big impact on business."

Wagner pointed out that other breweries around the country that opened the same year as his are four to 10 times larger than his now. He told the committee the state's restrictive beer laws are the reason why.

Scott Metzger of Freetail Brewing Co. in San Antonio testified next in favor of the bills. He explained that he could make more money if he moved outside the state. In-state brewpubs aren't allowed to sell beer at the retail level, but brewpubs headquartered in, say, California can, and do -- in Texas, as a matter of fact.

This was the easy part of the meeting. There were no negative comments about Eltife's bills.

But, then an elephant dropped into the middle of the room. During the last week of February, Carona (again, the man who created the working groups) introduced a new bill, Senate Bill 639, that would turn the entire beer industry on its head. Not only does this proposed legislation shock craft brewers, it even caused the major players in the industry, like Anheuser-Busch and a bevy of other groups, to gasp.

For the next 20 minutes, representatives from these groups took the stand in three-minute increments to make their case for why SB 639 should die a quick (perhaps painful) death. We reported on one aspect of the bill last week, which would prohibit craft brewers from selling their distribution rights to wholesalers; they'd just have to give them away, which would be a financial and marketing blow.

But another huge component of Carona's bill would affect every beer that hits a shelf in a retail store in Texas. It would establish a standard price at the manufacturer level for beer throughout the state and, in the end, would certainly affect the retail price.

Another measure would end self-distribution for breweries, which would be 10-steps back for craft breweries.

Carona filed this bill less than two weeks before this meeting and it was the first time most people had heard of these proposed laws. At no time did he bring the issues in SB 639 to his very own working groups.



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32 comments
pdcgimpy
pdcgimpy

Remind me how dick lickers like this manage to get elected and re-elected.   Is the republican base in this state really this stupid? These guys preach that they are for big business...but what they mean is that they are for businesses that slide money under the table to em

leeeeeeeeee
leeeeeeeeee

I can't thank Revolver, DEBC, Rahr, and Peticolas for helping represent our interest at the hearings. I love you all. #OpenTheTaps

pdcgimpy
pdcgimpy

Weird to see the "get the government out of my life" politicians rooting for things like government mandated pricing and government restrictions on small businesses.  They always like to go on TV and state they are for the normal guy but behind closed doors they pull stuff like this to give people an advantage who dont need an advantage.   All to make sure money stays at the top!

TxBeerGeek
TxBeerGeek

I called Angie in the Business and Commerce Committee at (512) 463-0365 and let her know how I feel. She was very nice and I hope others will call as well. You do NOT need to be in Carona's district to voice your opinion on this.

jasonzbtzl
jasonzbtzl

I'd like to know how much Carona was promised to get paid by the Wholesale Beer Distributors of Texas if he could get this bill passed....this is shenanigans at the highest level, I smell a stale beer covered rat and his name is Carona!! Either that or it was a ploy by the Wholesale Beer Distributors of Texas to muddy the water and stop passage of any bill at all.

jasonzbtzl
jasonzbtzl

I'd like to know how much Carona was promised to get paid by the Wholesale Beer Distributors of Texas if he could get this bill passed....this is shenanigans at the highest level, I smell a stale beer covered rat and his name is Carona!! Either that or it was a ploy by the Wholesale Beer Distributors of Texas to muddy the water and stop passage of any bill at all.

Heather Van Pelt
Heather Van Pelt

Emailed my thoughts on SB 639 to Carona: This bill is an egregious affront to the free market and would stifle small business craft brewers in the worst way. Please give craft brewers the room to grow and flourish their business so healthy competition may thrive and bring about a better product.

EastDallasDad
EastDallasDad

I called Senator Carona's office and was told to call the Business and Commerce Committee at (512) 463-0365 and ask for his aide Angie. Angie was on another call but the lady that answered said took my name and number and said she would call me back. Let's keep Angie busy today. 

Sotiredofitall
Sotiredofitall topcommenter

Also email your state representatives to tell them Carona is a idiot and they will also be held responsible if this passes.

Scott Stevenson
Scott Stevenson

How about we cut politician's pay to minimum wage. That'll save lots of $.

Doug Crawford
Doug Crawford

Andrew Hamilton! I'm sure you are aware of this but here is a cause to fight!

Scott W. Hatfield
Scott W. Hatfield

I believe it was G. Gordon Liddy that coined (or made popular) the phrase "terminate with extreme prejudice". To refer to Sen. Carona as a "blowhole" would be an insult to mammals that use one for breathing. It is time for Sen. Carona's termination from a position of "legend in his own mind".

Mervis
Mervis

Screw it. I'm going for a beer.

nicholas.seaman
nicholas.seaman

What you didn't mention was that Wholesale Beer Distributors contributed nearly $45K to Carona's campaign. Another sad example of a politician clearly pursuing the option that lines his pockets versus supporting the better and more popular option.

TxBeerGeek
TxBeerGeek

@alteredjustice Calling is much more effective then emailing. Business and Commerce Committee at (512) 463-0365 ask for Angie

Sarah O'
Sarah O'

@alteredjustice 

My email to Carona:

No. This is SHADY, underhanded, furtive, sneaky, and many other terms relating to an antagonist. How do you stand to profit, sir? We are all waiting to find out. WRONG. Stop. No.
These are words one uses when they are being RAPED. We have told you NO. We have told you STOP. Any further action beyond this point is taking advantage of a people who vocalized dissent. Quit raping our wallets!

PacoTX
PacoTX

@alteredjusticeJust emalied this to Carona...."In regards to SB 639...you are a moron and I hate you"

Dub919
Dub919

@alteredjustice  Done.  I asked why a Republican wouldn't let the free market do it's thing without all of that pesky regulation.

Pffft
Pffft

@porkrod69  I see the leftist sheeple are out in force today. 

Vote_The_Idiots_Out
Vote_The_Idiots_Out

@porkrod69 Of course it's a Republican idea. It intervenes with and disrupts your life, doesn't it? Now, just move along and pay up for your lobbyist-influenced big business beer.

Ricky_Hollywood
Ricky_Hollywood

@nicholas.seaman That's the correlation that I was looking for.  I knew it had to be something like that.  And you know what?  There isn't a damn thing we can do about it.  We can call all we want, email all we want, hell, we can even try to talk to him in person.  In the end, it will mean squat.  He's been paid, and he will do what he's been told.

porkrod69
porkrod69

@Pffft @porkrod69 Whatever douche.  This is a 'CONSERVATIVE REPUBLICAN' promoting this bill.  An anti-American bill.  Anti-competition.  Anti-business legislation.  (ohhhhh yeah-it's pro big business, anti-entrepeneur designed to kill small businesses) And here comes a douche to side with the one supporter-the WHOLESALE BEER DIST.  RIGHTEOUS example of hypocrisy of rightwingtards....amazing!

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