Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Halftime at the Montana Legislature

Today marks the 46th day of the 2011 Montana legislative session and follows the four day "transmittal break." Montana has one 90-day legislative session every other year and the transmittal deadline is an important benchmark.  General bills must be passed by the house/senate and sent to the other chamber on or before the 45th day of the session (the "transmittal deadline").  Miss that day and the bill is dead.  Non-general bills, such as appropriations, revenue, referendum, and interim studies, have later dates.  Stick with me. That gets important in a minute.

As the Montana Legislature starts its second half, let's take a look at the status of bills pertaining to craft beer and a few other alcohol related topics.
  • SB 202: Shifting tap room hours.  As discussed here, this bill died in committee on a 10-1 vote. 
  • SB 203: Allowing non-brewery growler fills.  Passed the Senate 49-1 and transmitted to the House.  The House Business and Labor Committee has scheduled a hearing for March 4, 2011 at 9:00 a.m. 
  • SB 29: Mandatory alcohol server and sales training.  Squeaked out of the Senate on 25-24 vote. Transmitted to the House and referred to the Business and Labor committee.
  • SB 215:  Reducing markup on liquor sold by the State based on the amount of Montana produced ingredients used in the liquor.  Passed the Senate 39-10 and transmitted to the House which referred it to the Appropriations committee. 
  • SB 250: Requiring on-premise consumption licensees to install cameras photographing all individuals entering and leaving the premises.  Tabled in committee and missed the transmittal deadline. 
  • SB 289:  Increasing the amount of liquor a microdistillery can sell a customer for off-premises consumption. Passed the Senate 45-5 and transmitted to the House.
  • SB 389:  Allows brewers to import non-beverage ingredients containing alcohol for use in blending and manufacturing and revising the tax. Hearing set for March 23, 2011 before the Senate Business, Labor and Economic Affairs Committee.  This bill is not subject to the transmittal deadline for general bills.
  • HB 63: Allows nonprofits to raffle or auction alcoholic beverages for fund raising. Passed the House 86-12 and transmitted to the Senate.  The Senate Business, Labor, and Economic Affairs Committee had a hearing on Feb. 20, but no action has been taken. 
  • HB 540: Increase the amount of alcohol allowed in "confectioneries." Tabled in committee and missed transmittal deadline.
Several other proposed bills were never introduced including a bill to eliminate the prohibition on shipping wine into the state.

You may recall I mentioned no one seems ready to step forward and deal with the mess of a licensing system we have in Montana.  Well, that's changed.  Sen. Zinke, who carried SB 202 (and others), has asked the legislative staff to draft a bill to create an "interim study on reform of alcohol and gambling licenses."  The text of the bill is not yet available, so I don't know any of the details.

Interim studies are not subject to the transmittal deadline for general bills, so there is still time to introduce it. (I told you we'd get back to that.) They do require an appropriation to fund the study, which may be a tough sell in this session. Regardless, it would be a good first step toward getting everyone around the table to help move Montana's craft beer industry forward.

1 comment:

  1. Well some may and may not agree with the revisions to take place on legislation covering the alcohol beverage industry. I believe it should be taken into positive aspect as the requirements would somehow improve the service and production of the businesses.