Mississippi Direct Sales Bill Dies in Committee

MS mississippi brewers guild

That didn’t take long. For the third time in four years, Mississippi lawmakers failed to pass legislation that would have given small breweries the right to sell beer directly to consumers.

Mississippi House Bill 846, introduced earlier this month, died on Tuesday after the 33-member Ways and Means house committee failed to vote on the proposed act before a deadline.

Formally introduced two weeks ago, HB 846 proposed several new allowances aimed at fostering growth within Mississippi’s fledging craft brewing industry. Had it passed, the new law would have allowed brewers in Mississippi to sell the greater portion of 2,000 barrels of beer or 10 percent their annual production directly to consumers. Small breweries, those producing 225,000 barrels or less annually, would have also been granted direct-sales rights at one additional location, such as an offsite taproom or a brewpub.

In order to preserve the integrity of the state’s three-tier system, the proposed law would have also required brewers to price their beers at rates matching those of nearby retailers and included language clarifying the definition of a “brewpub,” production restrictions and retail allowances.

An identical bill, introduced to the senate finance committee by senator Philip Moran (R-Kiln), was also shot down.

HB 846 was the third direct-sales bill to be rejected by the state’s house of representatives. The Mississippi Brewers Guild and Raise Your Pints Mississippi, a local craft brewing advocacy group, had previously pushed for similar legislation in 2014 and 2012.

“There are other more institutionalized organizations that have been around much longer than the Brewers Guild and have long standing relationships over at the capitol,” Matthew McLaughlin, general counsel to the Mississippi Brewers Guild told Brewbound.

McLaughlin argued that Mississippi beer wholesalers have consistently fought against small brewers’ efforts to pass direct-sales legislation.

Noting that many of the distributors have been strong supporters of the state’s burgeoning craft brewers, he said he had hoped the two groups could come together and find common ground.

“I would love to see a state sponsor or state endorsed committee being formed that is similar to Alabama’s, but I think the likelihood of that in Mississippi is pretty slim,” he said.

Alabama’s state legislature was recently able to put forth comprehensive industry reform by bringing brewers and wholesalers together and reviewing successful regulations in other states.

The House Ways and Means committee also killed HB 1424, which sought to clearly define and ban retailer assistance and pay-to-play activities. HB 1392, which would permit any brewery producing up to 200,000 barrels annually to open a separate brewpub near its main facility, also failed to move out of committee.

“I’m discouraged by the outcome, but I’m absolutely encouraged by the direction of the conversation right now,” McLaughlin said. adding that the guild plans to push for direct sales again in 2017.

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