JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — The future of the liquor franchise language that was attached to Senate Bill 114, a homebrew bill, is much like that of most everything in the last few hours of session: unknown.
About an hour after the Senate announced conferees for SB114, giving proponents of this bill hope that they could get it through before the 6 p.m. Friday closing, Majority Floor Leader Ron Richard, R-Joplin, told reporters he didn’t think the bill would be heard the final day.
“I doubt it,” he said while shaking his head when a reporter asked during a brief press availability after adjournment.
The Senate conferees include Eric Schmitt (the current bill’s sponsor), Kurt Schaefer, Mike Parson (the initial Senate bill’s sponsor), Ryan McKenna and Jason Holsman. The House conferees include Reps. Caleb Jones (the initial House bill’s sponsor), Todd Richardson, and Jacob Hummel.
Some of the changes in the conference report included adding an August 28, 2016 sunset date to the franchise language, which would change the language back to how it was prior to the 2011 federal court case until that date where it would revert back to the currently language, depending on whether the General Assembly chooses to make changes. The same sunset date applies to the carve-out for the small wineries and breweries in the state.
Schmitt, who said he still has hope for the bill being brought forward tomorrow, said everyone signed the conference committee report except for Schaefer, who led a filibuster during the floor debate Tuesday afternoon.
Schaefer said Thursday night he thinks the aspects of the underlying language that he had problems with from the get-go have not been properly addressed. Those include the retroactivity of the bill, the fact that a carve out was required for the smaller wine and beer industries in the state, and that the entire bill continues to appear to be solely for one Missouri company: Major Brands.
Schaefer said one of the differences between this report and the bills or amendments in the past that have the same language is that this is a “more transparent attempt to benefit one company.” He said he doesn’t think the General Assembly should do that.
“They had said that nothing in here could be considered a violation of Article 1, Section 13, which is the retroactive provision that says we can’t interfere with contracts that already exist,” Schaefer said. “So clearly someone thinks there’s an argument to be made that’s retroactive. That’s why they put the revision in it that says ‘you can’t construe this in any way to violate that provision.’ So in our unconstitutional drafting of this, no court can say it’s unconstitutional.”
Schmitt said multiple “olive branches” were coordinated for SB114 in order to try and gain Schaefer’s support.
“He said he wanted two things,” Schmitt said. “He wanted the abrogate language taken out, which we did, and the added retroactivity language, which we did.”
Schmitt said that while drafting the amendment, there was an effort made to use the provision, Article 1 Section 13, that Schaefer frequently cited during his Tuesday debate in order to help gain his support.
“It is so important that this issue be clarified,” Major Brands Chief Executive Officer Sue McCollum said Thursday night. “We had a veto-proof majority in the House, and we’ve addressed Senator Schaefer’s concerns in the Senate. I just hope this gets the vote it deserves.”
This being the second year in a row the bill has come up in some form, the likelihood of the language reappearing next year is something all parties involved agree has high odds.
“If we’re going to change the franchise law, then we’re going to need some debate,” Schaefer said, looking ahead to the potential of the issue arising again. “And during those discussions we’re going to need to hear from the small wineries, the small breweries and everyone else involved. This needs to be something that benefits consumers and benefits the free market.”
To contact Ashley Jost, email firstname.lastname@example.org, or via Twitter at @ajost.
Ashley Jost is no longer with The Missouri Times. She worked as the executive editor for several months, and a reporter before that.