JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – Just a week after stirring the proverbial pot in a House committee hearing, the controversial HB 433 passed through the committee despite a continued verbal battle Tuesday evening.
The bill sponsored by Rep. Robert Cornejo, R-St. Peters, the chairman of the House Committee, would allow alcohol retailers to offer “any coupon, premium, prize, rebate, sales price below cost, loyalty program, or discount” to consumers and to advertise a specific discount or price. In short, it would allow coupons for discount booze and drink specials to be clipped from newspapers or broadcast on television – if it becomes law.
The bill put before the committee did delete the “below-cost advertising” portion of the bill, prohibiting the advertising below cost, an item that was a major concern during the previous hearing.
While the bill passed through the committee with a vote of 9-3, it did not do so without more debate and a final stand against the measure by Rep. Jean Evans.
Citing concerns over the enormity of the bill and opposition heard in the previous week’s testimony, Evans moved for an amendment, asking that a legislative task force is created to investigate and determine all of the consequences of passing such legislation.
But fellow committee members questioned the amendment, asking who would serve on it, how they would be picked, and whether the task force would be given subpoena power.
Evans answered, saying she would welcome an amendment to the amendment to help address the concerns, but no other lawmakers offered any amendment up.
“Alcohol is not sneakers, and so it is tightly regulated,” she said. “And while I agree that we want to have free markets, even if we pass this bill, we still don’t have a free market for alcohol for good reason.”
Cornejo asked the committee to vote down the amendment, saying that he had not been given the opportunity to see the amendment prior to the executive session hearing.
Cornejo also said that he had asked for members of the three-tiered system to take part in a comprehensive look, which he said they had no interest in.
Evans’ measure was voted down.
Opposition was quick to release a statement, pointing to bill-supporter Total Wines, out of Maryland. Schnuck’s, a grocery story chain, supported a prior version of the bill.
“We appreciate Rep. Jean Evans standing up for Missouri families and asking how helping a Maryland company is good for our state,” Molly Teichman, the chairman of Missouri Values Project, said following the vote. Teichman penned an op-ed last week.
Rep. Peter Merideth and Evans also questioned the need to vote on the measure, as the committee was informed during the hearing that a public hearing would be held on all bills relating to intoxicating liquors next week.
Cornejo said that all of the liquor bills would be filed together as a committee bill, one of the new rule changes the House is trying this year.
“Under the new House rules, committees are allowed to file bills as a committee, and there’s a current request into the Speaker’s office that this committee do a committee-filed bill dealing with alcoholic beverages, so we will have a public hearing on that next week, and likely vote on it sometime next week as well,” Cornejo said.
“If we’re doing a committee bill, why are we doing this one as well?” Evans asked.
“Because there’s also other alcohol language out there,” Cornejo said, referencing other bills pertaining to liquor.
“No, because the committee-filed bill may sit for awhile, in case HB 433, get sideways and caught up in the Senate,” Cornejo responded.
“You don’t think we could wait until next week to have a vote on that?” Meredith continued.
Cornejo shook his head ‘no’ in response.
The committee passed the measure with nine votes in favor, with only Reps. Evans, Tracy McCreery, and Merideth voting against the bill.
Benjamin Peters was a reporter for The Missouri Times and Missouri Times Magazine and also produced the #MoLeg Podcast. He joined The Missouri Times in 2016 after working as a sports editor and TV news producer in mid-Missouri. Benjamin is a graduate of Missouri State University in Springfield.