These Are the Beer Bills That Could Impact Texas Breweries
Special thanks to Isaiah Warner for his help collecting this list of bills that could impact the Texas beer industry and for his help explaining the legislative process in Texas.
Update 4/17/17: When this list was originally compiled, sister bills HB 3287/SB 2083 had not been submitted. These distributor-funded bills, which restrict the ability of very large and/or macro-owned breweries to sell directly to consumers, are being fast-tracked through the legislature. You can read Nathan’s opinion piece here, which is a response to Karbach founder Ken Goodman’s opinion piece in the Chronicle here.
Given the fireworks surrounding craft beer issues in the last few meetings of the Texas Legislature, this year’s biennial meeting of our elected representatives has been relatively quiet. Although a spate of bills were put into the hopper when the gavel dropped in January not much has progressed through the first step of committee hearings. At this point in the ~6 month session (it ends on May 29th) it seems unlikely that much proposed change has a chance to even make it to a vote, much less be signed into law.
The biggest news this year has come from the judicial branch – Mike McKim, owner of Cuvee Coffee in Austin, was victorious in his lawsuit against the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission (TABC) . His winning argument overturned the TABC’s 2015 enforcement actions that declared that the filling of crowlers by beer retailers (bars) was illegal and potentially dangerous ‘repackaging’ and was an action reserved only for the manufacturing (brewing) tier. His win in court makes the use of crowlers at bars in Texas legal (again), and some here in Houston have already reinstalled their machines or have indicated they will do so.
On the legislative front, the same questions remain for Texas craft beer consumers: Why can you buy a six pack from Brash but not Saint Arnold? Why can you legally have wine shipped to your door but cannot have beer shipped? Why do you have to wait until noon on Sundays to buy beer at your local grocery store?
Here is a quick rundown of select legislation, followed with information about what you can do to help advance legislation you are interested in.
Currently in the House Licensing & Administrative Procedures Committee:
- HB 109: Would allow for the owner of more than one package store to transfer alcoholic beverages (non-liquor) between premises.
- HB 327: Would allow for Sunday beer and wine sales before noon.
- HB 908: Would clarify the code to allow for sell of beer for off-premise consumption in growlers, crowlers, and others.
- HB 1872/SB 750: Repeals the section of the code that limits a person to five package stores.
- HB 2098: Allows for holders of a wholesaler’s permit to purchase beer from holders of brewpub licenses.
- HB 2291: Allows for holders of a brewer’s permit to sell and ship directly to consumers.
Currently in the Senate Business & Commerce Committee:
- SB 171: Requires the internet broadcasting of TABC meetings.
Filed (but not assigned to a committee; will likely be L&AP in the House and B&C in the Senate):
- HB 2186/SB 955: Lowers the tax rate on “ale and malt liquor” (beers over 4% ABW) to $0.193548 per gallon (from $0.198 per gallon).
- HB 2555/SB 1217: Allows for holders of a brewer’s permit to sell up to 576 fluid ounces of beer to consumers for off-site consumption. Sales are limited to one purchase per consumer per month.
- HB 2966: Allows for automated dispensing machines to sell up to 32 ounces of beer.
- HB 3101: Allows for the sale of alcoholic beverages on a passenger bus.
- HB 3315: Allows for the holder of a brewer’s permit to hold a tasting competition of home-produced alcoholic beverages.
- HB 3400: Allows for holders of a brewpub license to sell beer to distributors outside the state.
- SB 2169: Eliminates the distinction in the code between “ale” or “malt liquor” and “beer”.
Passing a piece of legislation in Texas is a difficult process. Most of the bills filed will not pass, not to mention even receive a committee hearing. What can you do to push a piece of legislation along?
How can you get involved? First off, know who your state representative and senator are by typing in your address here. Call their capitol office and politely express your position. Ask them to support the legislation by co-authoring or sponsoring it. If there is not a companion bill in the other chamber, ask them to introduce it. If they are on the House Licensing & Administrative Procedures Committee (Houston area representatives Ana Hernandez and Senfronia Thompson are), ask for them to push for the legislation to get a hearing. The same can be done for Senate bills that are in the Committee on Business & Commerce where Houston-area senators are Brandon Creighton, Larry Taylor, and John Whitmire. Here is where many people get cynical and say politicians that do not care what their constituents think, but that is not always the case. It also does not hurt to contact elected officials (such as chairs of committees) that are not in your district, but the voice of constituents always weighs heavier. It’s also perfectly fine to advocate for issues outside the legislative realm – for example, voicing support for the crowler issue. At a minimum this serves to make sure the legislator’s office is informed on this issue, and makes them aware that their constituency is informed and interested in the specifics. Consumers have very little formal voice in Austin, so any framing of issues from the end consumer’s point of view is a good thing, even if legislation doesn’t move as a direct result.
Texas legislative actions move very slowly, by design. It can be frustrating, but it’s important to participate in the process. Our elected representatives do listen when they are called.