Round One To Craft Brewers In Indiana: SB 75 Passes In Committee.

Previously at NAC: “It’s a tourism issue and it’s a specialty item and it’s a true art.”

I intended to comment on SB 75 earlier, did so to some degree during a discussion of Election Day sales legislation, but didn't finish my thoughts. So ...

SB 75 passed in Indiana Senate committee on Wednesday afternoon, with a vote of 9-2. Senators Zakas and Delph dissented, the latter appending a statement of principle to his "nay", but with the former, who did not speak his mind on the bill, remaining silent. Sorry, but I find it hard to respect silence.

Interestingly, during my brief testimony before the committee, Senator Waltz (he voted "yes") jokingly asked me: "Have you at any time, or are you now, a Hoosier Beer Geek?" I responded in the affirmative, and wished I'd worn my "These Machines Kill Fascists" shirt, or at least brought a facsimile of Woody Guthrie's guitar. I have a feeling that neither Delph nor Zakas would have appreciated it, and that fact makes me almost as happy as Imperial Stout on a sub-zero afternoon.

My brief comments were restricted to elaborating on the joys of watching Hoosier tax revenue travel to Kentucky for deposit each and every Sunday of my working career, and seeing micros in Kentucky sell growlers on a day that we cannot.

Fear not: The Brewers of Indiana Guild made a strong case for relief based on parity with craft wineries (which can sell wine to go on Sunday), the artisanal nature of craft beer, the local impact of small business, the integral part that we've played in various downtown revivals, and the fact that tourism for the sake of craft beer is not a laughing matter at all. Among others, Senator Taylor noted that his mind had been changed by the strength of the presentation, and although Bud Light's still good enough for him, he can see the point and agrees with it.

That's good, because we're going to need both strong argumentation and a measure of plain good luck. In essence, we must sidestep the mega-lobbyists' current battle royale over the issue of Sunday carry-out sales in general, as it pertains to package stores, groceries and other macro-entities, and keep the topic restricted to microbrewing in particular, and our special position as artisans. As a guild, we don't have dogs in those fights, and we need to keep it that way.

Senators Simpson and Alting are powerful advocates of common sense, but they have rightly vowed to kill our bill if outside interests hijack it with amendments. There's no benefit to anyone hijacking it, but then again, politics isn't about logic. Conceivably, any grandstanding moralist in the Senate could amend the bill, and if a procedural appeal to remove the amendment is rejected, succeed in maneuvering us into keeping our word and removing it sans a vote on the actual merits.

Will that happen? As Frank Zappa once said, "I figure the odds be 50/50."

If SB 75 makes it through the Senate next week, the process begins anew in the House with another bill, another hearing, another vote, and if all that comes down, a reconciliation of the two. I may have the order of movement wrong, but it shows that we've only just begun the process.

On the local front, both Connie Sipes (Senate) and Ed Clere (House) have indicated support. I appreciate that, and I'm sure that Professor Erika does not, although I can promise local teabaggers (and fleabaggers) that Sunday growler sales will not lead to new TIF areas or to any reason why Steve Price might start drinking better beer.

The coverage of the committee hearing on Indianapolis' WISH-8 is fairly good, and can be viewed and read here.