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Texas Craft Brewers Guild launches new political action committee

The Texas Craft Brewers Guild announced on Monday, Jan. 22, the launch of CraftPAC, a political action committee created to “protect the rights of Texas breweries and champion common sense, 21st century legislative reforms,” according to a news release.

“It is time to shine a light on the broken beer laws in Texas,” TCBG Executive Director Charles Vallhonrat said in the release. “The [TCBG] has led organized industry efforts at the capitol and conducted stakeholder outreach and concerted advocacy work for years to drive a legislative agenda that would modernize beer laws in Texas.

“But, it is time to let the public know that we are dealing with arcane laws written in the 1930s and 1970s that do not reflect current market conditions,” Vallhonrat continued. “We want to get the public involved in developing a craft beer landscape that is responsive to their interests.”

There are currently more than 200 craft breweries operating in Texas, however, the state ranks 46th out of 50 nationwide in number of breweries per capita. According to CraftPAC, there’s room for more craft beer growth in Texas, but “archaic, anti-competitive beer laws hold the state back and have had a chilling effect on the industry’s growth.”

CraftPAC supports job growth, increased economic impact and expanded consumer freedom, and aims to mobilize Texas’ craft brewing industry and the community to “stand up for fixing the state’s beer laws”, the release stated.

CraftPAC included a call to action in it’s news release, stating, “It’s time for equitable laws that will allow the Texas craft brewing industry to fairly compete on the national stage, attract more entrepreneurship and investment, and see an untapped rise in craft beer tourism.”

Craft brewers have been facing off against opposition, primarily from beer distributors, in an attempt to sell more beer directly to consumers. The organization cites House Bill 3287 (2017), which it says set a dangerous precedent of wholesaler interference in brewery taprooms, and Senate Bill 639 (2013), which they explain prohibits breweries from selling their distribution rights to wholesalers, as examples of “anticompetitive, regressive beer laws” the Texas legislature has passed.

The organization stated that HB3287 passed despite opposition from the TCBG and more than 15,000 craft beer drinkers who signed the guild’s petition and contacted their legislators to voice concerns. They also point out that SB639 has resulted in a lawsuit against the state that is poised to be heard by the Texas Supreme Court.

“Numerous bills, filed over the last decade, that would legalize to-go sales from production brewery taprooms rarely even receive a committee hearing because of wholesaler influence,” the PAC stated in the release, calling out the more than $18 million in political contributions the Texas beer wholesale lobby has made over the last 10 years.

CraftPAC points out that to-go sales are legal for Texas wineries, distilleries, brewpubs, and breweries in 49 other states.

“Ending this arbitrary and discriminatory prohibition against Texas breweries is one of the most urgent legislative priorities of the Texas Craft Brewers Guild and a key goal of CraftPAC,” the group stated in the news release.

The group states that ultimately, the PAC is a brewer-led effort on part of the craft beer community to counter “the enormous financial influence of beer wholesalers on Texas politics” through grassroots fundraising and advocacy.

“The wholesale lobby has exerted massive influence in the state legislature by contributing tens of millions of dollars to elected officials,” CraftPAC Board Chair and Austin Beerworks Co-Founder Adam DeBower said in the release.

“If the Texas craft brewing industry is ever going to achieve its full potential, it has to play on the same field as the wholesalers,” he continued. “CraftPAC provides an opportunity for Texas craft brewers and beer consumers to vote not just with their dollars out in the marketplace, but also in the halls of the state Capitol.”

As the 2019 legislative session and TABC Sunset review approach, CraftPAC will:

— Support legislative candidates, ballot initiatives and pieces of legislation which positively impact the growth and sustainability of the Texas craft beer industry

— Oppose legislative candidates, ballot initiatives and legislation which seek to hold the industry back

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