A couple more articles were published today regarding the beer legislation in Florida’s Senate. One of the articles is from Michigan. While there are people learning and writing about the ridiculous nature of the legislation in other markets, it still seems that some of those in the Senate still don’t truly understand the relevant context of the legislation.

According to one article, Senator Kelli Stargel, the sponsor of SB 1714, said the craft industry has thrived under the exception originally created to allow Busch Gardens to sell its beer directly to consumers. The thriving craft beer industry means more taxes collected by the State of Florida. More importantly, the exception was created to promote tourism, not to promote only Busch Gardens. The exception never specifies theme parks or theme parks developed by Anheuser-Busch. There is a reason for that. Tourism is good for Florida and its economy whether Anheuser-Busch is behind it or not. In another article, Stargel is credited with noting that craft brewers want to operate under an exception given to Busch Gardens that was never intended for them. Stargel appears very willing to read beyond the actual language of the statute to conclude that it really should only apply to Busch Gardens for so long as the park was willing to sell beer.

Still, Stargel admits that she and Florida’s legislators are “learning that there is a beginning tourism aspect to craft beer. There are bus tours of craft beer manufacturers as well.” Despite the admission of what others already know (that quality craft beer creates tourism), she never touches on the idea of rethinking her feeling that the tourism exception should be removed (or that Florida’s craft brewers don’t truly fit within the tourism exception). If the craft beer industry is thriving, and there exists an exception based on tourism and the craft beer industry creates tourism, it simply does not follow that therefore, the tourism exception must be removed. Something is missing there (logic).

Stargel also noted, according to Tom Gantert, that the discussion on the bill has become “convoluted.” The problem here is that in Stargel’s attempt to simplify the regulations around the beer industry, those laws are generally simplified to a degree of fantasy. Stargel recently said during the last meeting of the Senate’s Committee on Community Affairs that either you are a brewer, a distributor or a vendor. She repeated this in the article in The Ledger, in a tone that seems to strive to educate those brewers who just don’t get it: You are a brewer, not a vendor (well that’s incorrect). As we have discussed previously, exceptions to the three tier system are the norm. While her words, which generally come from the distributor lobby, place the three tiers into impenetrable categories, that is not reality. Most states allow breweries to distribute a limited amount of beer or sell their own beer. One must wonder if there is simply a lack of knowledge of the concept or if she is just beholden to the distributors and is happy to repeat their tagline.

Rep. Ben Albritton and Stargel both alluded to Prohibition as if exceptions to the three tier system would return us to the days the led to Prohibition. Again, this isn’t the case. There are laws in place (other than a mandatory three tier system) that would prevent those things from reoccurring. Nonetheless, both are preying on the public’s fears of something they may not fully understand (but something you would hope those charged with making laws would understand).

Mitch Rubin, executive director of the Florida Beer Wholesalers Association, the organization that has provided the three tier propaganda (and money) to these legislators called the three tier system a “societal choice.” Societal choices aren’t generally driven by the money of a small segment of the population and the result of extensive lobbying. He noted that the three tier system allows for efficient tax collection and helps deter over-consumption of beer. Of course, as long as you buy all your beer, no matter how much that may be, after it has gone through the distribution tier, over consume all you want. He then goes on to explain that the legislature doesn’t want you buying cigarettes from manufacturers and they don’t want you buying beer from manufacturers because it will allow manufacturers to unfairly compete with retailers. That’s nice of the distribution tier, which is getting money from the manufacturing tier (Anheuser-Busch) to look out for the retailer tier (good thing the three tier system is around!). Rubin never explains much, but less competition between manufacturers and retailers doesn’t stop over-consumption. It may not be what he meant to convey, but then it would be best to offer something more than conclusions that don’t logically follow one another.

Rubin added that there is a misunderstanding about the come-to-rest exception in SB1714 (there isn’t) and then explains that the come-to-rest requirement exists to make certain the beer being shipped matches the paperwork for inspection and tax purposes. We explained previously that one of the reasons behind the requirement is indeed to make tax reporting more efficient and effective. But isn’t it strange to explain the need for the come-to-rest the exception and immediately note that it can be done away with in limited circumstances that would only benefit the distributors (no, it’s not strange)? Stargel added that the come-to-rest exception here would exist only to make things easier for brewers. This way, if brewers sell limited amounts of bottled/canned beer to distributors, they would be far less likely to ever see it again if it had to make the trip to the distributor’s warehouse first. So that makes an unnecessarily difficulty slightly “easier” than it would otherwise be. Let’s not strive for that kind of legislation.

Still curious why legislators are learning that craft beer creates tourism, yet, rather than noting that Florida’s craft brewers must fall within the same exception that was good enough for Anheuser-Busch, Florida’s laws must be rid of the tourism exception altogether. That would, by their own admission, reduce tourism and have a negative effect on Florida’s tourism industry and a negative effect on Florida’s economy and a negative effect on Florida’s tax revenues. Most of what is being said doesn’t add up.