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House scuttles bill to restrict beer brewer ownership

House scuttles bill to restrict beer brewer ownership

Idaho Freedom Foundation staff
March 28, 2013
[post_thumbnail]Rep. Gayle Batt listens to testimony in the House State Affairs Committee.

The Idaho House on Thursday scuttled a bill that would have prohibited beer brewers from having an ownership or financial interest in a beer dealer or wholesaler's business. The action came after the House State Affairs Committee agreed to advance the bill to the House floor for amendments.

“Above all, please keep in mind at all times we are talking about alcohol policy,” noted Jeremy Pisca, of the Risch Pisca Law Firm, as he spoke before the committee about Senate Bill 1118. “The opponents to this legislation are two multinational, the two biggest multinational, brewing companies in the world. They are no longer American brewers, they are multinational corporations.”

Senate Bill 1118 sought to forbid a "brewer, directly or indirectly, or through an affiliate, subsidiary, officer, director, agent or employee to have any financial interest in any licensed wholesaler's or dealer's business, or to own or control any real property upon which a licensed dealer or wholesaler conducts business."

Arguing in favor of the bill, which passed unanimously in the Senate, Pisca described those who support it, saying “you have the Idaho Beer and Wine Distributors Association. These are business people that live in Idaho, work in Idaho, who are the fabric of the community in Idaho. We are in every single corner of the state of Idaho.”

Rep. Gayle Batt, R-Wilder, commented to Pisca: “You had made a comment that right now there are no brewery-owned retail branches in Idaho. But I’ve been told that in the history of the state, that actually Coors Miller brewing did at one time own a distributorship and the world didn’t end.”

Pisca responded, “We are not dealing with the same companies that we dealt with many years ago. Coors was an independent brewery, it did not have very many distributorships, Miller and Coors merged, and it is now a Canadian company. It was not part of Miller’s business plan to have brewery-owned branches, so they divested of those. That is an absolutely factual statement, Coors distributing did operate in the Boise area, probably 10 year ago before they divested. But again, to underscore, there are no brewery-owned branches today.”

Another lobbyist, Ken McClure, representing Anheuser-Busch, spoke in opposition to the legislation. “This is a solution searching for a problem,” he said. “This legislation takes away a right that we very seldom use, but when we need it it’s important, and we cannot willingly have this right taken away from us. So they have instructed me to speak to you in opposition to the legislation.”

“I actually don’t really drink beer, so I’m just here representing the free market,” testified Wayne Hoffman, executive director of the Idaho Freedom Foundation. “Regulations that prohibit the free market drive up the costs of products, which result in the creation of indirect taxes that are paid by your constituents. With regard to this particular bill, it is a restriction on business and it is not a new thing for this Legislature. As businesses evolve in the new economy, the Legislature is asked to step in and maintain the status quo. This is to the detriment of businesses and employees and consumers.”

Despite the overwhelming support of the bill in the Senate, the House State Affairs Committee voted to send the bill to the House amending order, where the full House can consider amendments. But once the measure landed in the House, the chamber agreed unanimously to send the measure back to the House State Affairs Committee, most likely killing it for the remainder of the session.

Note: IdahoReporter.com is published by the Idaho Freedom Foundation.

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