JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — A House amendment that adds the franchise liquor language to Senate Bill 114, a brewery bill sponsored by Sen. Eric Schmitt, R-Glendale, was heard Tuesday when the Senate returned from their first recess at 2 p.m.
The debate began with Schmitt provided a background of the “liquor war” issues dating back to the repeal of prohibition – explaining court cases, franchise law and the three-tier system.
An inquiry from Sen. Kurt Schaefer, R-Columbia, who is against the amendment, sparked debate between the two lawyers about franchise law, the “retroactivity” of the amendment, and the potential of decreased competition — a point both senators used in their favor by describing ‘what if’ scenarios.
“Here’s what’s going to happen if we’re going to do this: we’re going to get sued,” Schaefer said, later pointing out this is one of the first issues where he has agreed with a decision from Gov. Jay Nixon regarding the veto of this amendment as Senate Bill 837 last year.
Schaefer then led a filibuster of the amendment, inquiring a bipartisan corps of opposing senators including Dan Brown, John Lamping, Ed Emery, Jolie Justus, Brad Lager and Rob Schaaf, who ended up taking the filibuster over after a few hours.
“When I look at this, it is a turf war,” Emery said.
Emery said he thinks the federal court judge “got it right” with Missouri Beverage Company, Inc. v. Shelton Brothers, Inc., a 2011 case that was affirmed by the U.S. Court of Appeals Eighth Circuit last year, which proponents of the amendment argue established new meaning for the word “franchise” that made the standing Missouri law and three-tier system.
Just before 5 p.m., Senate President Pro Tem Tom Dempsey, R-St. Charles, Majority Floor Leader Ron Richard, R-Joplin, and Schmitt met multiple times in the back of the chamber.
Shortly after 5 p.m. — in the midst of Schaaf’s filibuster — Schmitt requested to have the bill laid over.
Schmitt told reporters during recess that the underlying home brew bill has been attached to other legislation, and has a matching bill sponsored by, ironically, Schaefer.
“I think there’s a lot of support in the Senate chamber,” Schmitt said about the future of the bill and its supporters. “It depends on how intense the opposition is at this point with a week left.”
Schmitt told reporters that the challenge moving forward is simply time.
“Nothing’s ever dead on the floor of the Senate,” Richard said in a brief discussion with reporters Tuesday afternoon, when asked if the bill would be brought back up before adjournment Friday.
Statements from groups on either side of the issue appeared to be hopeful after the bill was set aside.
In a statement, Sue McCollum, chief executive officer of Major Brands, said she’s grateful for the Senate bringing up the issue and urged them to return to the issue before the end of session.
“Thousands of Missouri jobs depend on this bill and those workers deserve an up or down vote before the legislature adjourns for the year,” she said.
Ben Jenkins, vice president of the Distilled Spirits Council, a leading group in the opposition against the amendment, said the Council is grateful the Senate brought up the bill and gave it time for review.
“It’s our hope they turn now toward other matters important to Missourians in the short time left this session,” Jenkins continued.
On Tuesday, about 200 representatives (a number provided from one of those involved) from Glazer’s — anti-SB114 amendment — were walking the Capitol halls, lobbying officials about the issues. Representatives were also present from Major Brands — pro-SB114 amendment — though not near as many as their opponent.
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Ashley Jost is no longer with The Missouri Times. She worked as the executive editor for several months, and a reporter before that.