The Brewers Guild is Working Hard in Olympia Right Now

The Capitol Building in Olympia, Washington.
sponsor
sponsor
sponsor
sponsor
sponsor
sponsor
sponsor


It’s legislative season in Olympia and that means the Washington Brewers Guild is busily working to represent the interests of the state’s craft breweries. We are now three weeks into the 2024 session, which will last just 60 days. Here are some highlights of what the Washington Brewers Guild is working on, followed by a report from Daniel Olson, the Guild’s Executive Director.

Lower BAC Threshold for DUI

A bill to lower the minimum blood-alcohol level has now passed committee. If enacted, HB 2196 would lower the BAC limit from .08 to .05. Nobody is saying that efforts to reduce drunk driving are anything but well-intentioned, but reducing the BAC limit puts servers at brewery taprooms in a more difficult position.

Some consumers would reach the new limit with just one drink. This puts servers at taprooms –and all servers– at risk by increasing their liability exposure. The Guild’s opposition to this bill is not about enabling drunk driving; rather, it is about limiting breweries’ exposure to liability. Presumably, the Washington Brewers Guild is not alone in its opposition, but this is a feel-good bill and it will be hard for any of our elected officials to oppose it.

Bottle Bills, Deposits, and New Fees

There are two bills out there that seem ill-conceived, or at least not well-considered. They both deal with packaged product producers — businesses that put beverages in bottles and cans, basically. One would require some breweries to pay fees. The other, referred to as a “bottle bill,” threatens to make deposits a reality.


sponsor

sponsor

sponsor

sponsor

sponsor

sponsor

sponsor

sponsor

sponsor

sponsor

sponsor

sponsor

sponsor

sponsor

sponsor

sponsor

sponsor

sponsor

sponsor

Why oppose? The Guild holds that the two bills lack clarity about who would be required to pay what. There is a fear that the bills will disproportionally impact small producers, like craft brewers. Also, it gives significant new powers to the Department of Ecology.

Tax Breaks for Big, Out-of-State Cocktail Producers

The big booze industry is working to push a tax break through the Legislature that would lower the tax rate on canned cocktails. It is a massive tax cut for big, out-of-state liquor corporations and it would give canned cocktails an advantage.


sponsor


sponsor


sponsor


sponsor


sponsor


sponsor


sponsor

Bold-faced and undisguised, this is nothing but a money grab by the big liquor companies that produce most canned cocktails. Washington’s brewers are already having enough trouble fighting against canned cocktails for shelf space. Big Liquor has lots and lots of money to play with, so this will be a tough fight.

From the Washington Brewers Guild Directly

We are three weeks into the “short” 2024 legislative session, and it is shaping up to be another busy one. 

sponsor
sponsor
sponsor
sponsor
sponsor
sponsor
sponsor
sponsor
sponsor
sponsor
sponsor
sponsor
sponsor
sponsor
sponsor
sponsor

Thank you to everyone who signed in as “con” to HB 2196, which would lower the BAC limit from .08 to .05 – it truly makes a difference as we forcefully push back against this bill.

Here are some updates on a few bills we’ve been engaged on this session:

sponsor

sponsor

sponsor

sponsor

sponsor

sponsor

sponsor

sponsor

sponsor

sponsor

HB 2196/ SB 5002 BAC Level Reduction:

Representative Brandy Donaghy (D-Mill Creek) & Senator Lovick (D-Mill Creek) are the prime sponsors of this legislation. 

This bill would lower the BAC level considered for drunk driving from .08 to .05.

While any effort to reduce or eliminate drunk driving is well-intentioned, there are concerns that this bill would create inequities in arrests (a 120-pound individual could reach .05 BAC after only one drink), harm business, and increase the legal exposure for breweries when it comes to overservice laws

This bill had a public hearing this past Thursday in the Community Safety, Justice, & Re-Entry committee in the House. WBG testified against this bill, and we are continuing to meet with the members of this committee to express our serious concerns with this legislation.

If this bill continues to move through the process, we will keep you posted on ways to engage with your legislators.

HB 2049 and HB 2144: Extended Producer Responsibility & Bottle Deposit Return:

Representative Berry (D-Seattle) and Representative Stonier (D-Vancouver) are the prime sponsors of this legislation. 

These bills seek to:

1.(HB 2049) Create Producer Responsibility Organizations (PRO) that producers of packaging and paper products must join and pay certain fees developed by the Dept. of Ecology. (HB 2049)

2. (HB 2144) Create Distributor Responsibility Organizations (DRO) as an alternative to PROs for producers and distributors of beverage containers (sealed glass, metal, or plastic bottle or can). DRO’s would be tasked with establishing and operating deposit return system for beverage containers and pay fees developed by the Dept. of Ecology. Consumers would receive 10 cents per container deposited. This section is commonly known as a “bottle bill”.  

Both bills have been heard in both the House Environment & Energy committee where we testified on our concerns, and been passed out of committee with several amendments – overcoming bi-partisan opposition. The bills will now move to House Appropriations and House Finance respectively.

Businesses that generate $5 million or less in gross revenue are exempt from the requirements in HB 2049. We are advocating for an amendment to exempt on-premise sales of alcohol from this revenue threshold – allowing breweries to not include taproom sales when determining their gross revenue. While not perfect, it will help exempt more breweries from the fees and requirements included in this bill.

These proposals are concerning for several reasons, particularly in the lack of information on rule-making and fee structures for producers of beverage containers along with the considerable power given to the Dept. of Ecology. There is a concern these proposals would disproportionately harm small craft brewers who rely primarily on self-distribution. We’ve expressed these concerns directly to both sponsors and are continuing to work with legislators and stakeholders. 

SB 5375/HB 1344 Canned Cocktails/RTDs:

Senator King (R-Yakima) and Representative Chapman (D-Port Angeles) are the prime sponsors of this legislation. 

This bill creates a new definition of “low proof beverage” as “any beverage that is 16 ounces or less and that contains more than .5 percent alcohol by volume and less than seven percent alcohol by volume, but does not include wine, malt beverages, or malt liquor.” This bill would lower the tax rate on “low-proof beverages” to $2.50 per gallon, giving out of state liquor corporations a massive tax cut while making it harder for local brewers to fight for shelf space.

We are continuing to monitor this legislation, but no public hearing has been scheduled as of today.

 As always please reach out via email, phone, or text with any questions. My cell is 425.501.1626.

 -Daniel



sponsor
sponsor
sponsor
sponsor
sponsor
sponsor
sponsor
@washingtonbeerblog
@beerblog