Late last night, Yazoo Brewery's Linus Hall made a frantic post to the Tennessee Craft Brewers Guild Facebook page:
it's late but I just got word that our bills to Fix the Beer Tax are being attacked, with the intent to kill them in the House Local subcommittee tomorrow. No kidding. Please, either tonight or tomorrow, send an email to the following House Local subcommittee members, urging them to give the HB0999 bill a full committee hearing:
Well, whether the flood of last minute e-mails and phone calls changed people's minds, or whether there was never any threat to begin with, something worked: In its first legislative hearing in the House Local Government Subcommittee, HB 999 passed by a wide margin. The bill will move to full committee next week, and the Senate is also expected to take it up next week.Joe Carr firstname.lastname@example.orgDale Carr email@example.comJeremy Durham firstname.lastname@example.orgSteve Hall email@example.comMatthew Hill firstname.lastname@example.orgLarry Miller email@example.comAntonio Parkinson's rep.antonio.parkinson.capitol.tn.govSeriously, all of our work the past year can be killed at this committee hearing. There is no organized opposition to our bills, but this kind of under-handed, lowdown, dirty-pool tactics is typical of the other side.I wouldn't be surprised if they were behind the theft of a certain hog smoker down in Nolensville.IT WILL NOT STAND AND IT WILL NOT WORK. PLEASE, tonight or tomorrow morning early, email all seven members of the House Local subcommittee listed above. Tell them you support the bill HB0999 to reform beer taxes in TN!Thank you,Linus
But just because most of the committee voted to change the state's wholesale beer tax to a per-volume tax, the same as is levied on wine and liquor, that doesn't mean it passed without controversy. Rep. Richard Floyd of Chattanooga peppered the bill's sponsor, Rep. Cameron Sexton (R-Crossville), with questions. "I see this just as an attempt to lower the price of beer," Floyd asserted. "That's not going to happen," Sexton replied, pointing out that the tax change will actually cause the prices of cheaper beers like Budweiser and Miller to rise. "This isn't about making beer cheaper. We're trying to save jobs and save businesses in Tennessee." Floyd also disputed that Tennesseans drive out of state to buy beer. (We can tell you for a fact that he's wrong. We know people who do it all the time.)
In the end, Floyd's blather didn't matter -- he was the only vote against the legislation. Still, there's no guarantee that the full committee won't feel the same way, or that the Senate committee members won't. So if you do care about fixing the beer tax, keep paying attention. There's a long way yet to go.