JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — Last week, the House passed Senate Bill 114, a local brewery bill, and added on an amendment that mirrors the legislation involved in the so-called “liquor wars.”
A defeat for proponents of the bill, lead by St. Louis-based distributor Major Brands, the bill has yet to be placed on the Senate calendar during the final week of session, but Senate leadership expects to hear it at some point.
“With 100-some votes in the House, I’m pretty much obliged to bring it up sometime mid-week,” Sen. Ron Richard, R-Joplin, said to reporters Thursday afternoon. “We’ll see what happens, but there’s a concerted effort by a number of people to kill it. So, we’ll see if they do but I’m not going to stay on it a long, long time. We’ll see what happens.”
Senate President Pro Tem Tom Dempsey, R-St. Charles, told reporters during the same press availability that he hasn’t heard whether Gov. Jay Nixon is okay with the bill as it currently stands, which was something he said he asked after another version of the bill, sponsored by Dempsey, was vetoed last year.
Dempsey said one of his staff members was told last week that Nixon’s official position on the franchise liquor language was “no position” at all. Dempsey then pointed out that Nixon has shown he’s not opposed to vetoing a bill twice.
The initial bill, SB114, sponsored by Sen. Eric Schmitt, R-Glendale, passed 110-48, with the amendment passing by 112-47.
“I would hope we could get it out there and get some discussion,” Schmitt told The Missouri Times, adding that when he put forward the local brewery bill, he never anticipated it taking on what’s been considered the most lobbied issue of the session.
Schmitt said he voted for the same bill last year, and that it’s his understanding that the issues addressed by Nixon last year when he vetoed it have been solved, but he “has yet to hear anything for sure from the office.”
Last week, Major Brands Chief Executive Officer Sue McCollum told The Missouri Times after the bill passed that “the little guy won today.”
McCollum, who was joined in the gallery during the debate last week with St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay, previously said the issue is a matter of in-state versus out-of-state competitors. She said she thinks the vote Wednesday was the House standing up for “Missouri law, public safety and jobs,” and she urged the Senate to do the same.
Slay has been in Jefferson City multiple times during the last few weeks, advocating for multiple issues with this being among them.
“To me it’s about protecting jobs in the state of Missouri,” Slay said. “It’s not just about Major Brands but the other organizations affected as well. There are a lot of jobs this will impact.”
Slay said that for him this issue is also about fairness and “clarifying existing law.”
“The liquor industry is very disruptive and I’m concerned about jobs in the future,” Slay added.
The Distilled Spirits Council of the United States — a leading group in the fight against this legislation — was one of multiple groups (including Missourians for Fair Competition, a new group) to send a release after last week’s vote.
Ben Jenkins, vice president of DISCUS, said in the release that the legislation would create an anti-competitive environment in Missouri — a main argument point for the opponents — and urged the senate to reject the bill when it makes it to the upper chamber.
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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.