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Craft beer supporters finally experience success at the Capitol

The House of Representatives voted Thursday afternoon to send HB 1422 to the Senate.

The bill would raise the alcohol-by-weight content in beer made and sold in Mississippi from 5 percent to 8 percent. The current 5 percent cap is the lowest in the U.S.

The bill cleared the House 67-45, with only moderate opposition shown while Rep. Hank Zuber, R-Ocean Springs, was presenting it. Most of that opposition had to do with whether beer with a higher alcohol content could lead to an increase in alcohol-related deaths and/or DUIs. Zuber cited data from Ohio and Alabama that said neither was the case. The bill was held on a motion to reconsider, which will delay it being sent to the Senate, though it’s not very likely that will keep it from passing because 22 representatives would have to switch their votes once the bill is called up again.

Similar bills with Republican authors and co-sponsors have cleared committee and await debate on the Senate floor. Gov. Phil Bryant told the MBJ about a month ago that he was “not necessarily opposed” to the notion of raising the ABW cap to 8 percent.

While the bill is a long way from becoming law, this is no small victory for supporters of this measure. Raise Your Pints deserves a huge amount of credit for sticking with the issue, which has been dead on arrival once it reached committee the past few sessions. This is a textbook example of how to sell a piece of legislation. Supporters made this about economic development — specifically, tourism and sales tax revenue — and not alchohol. Once they did that, the longstanding opposition to it gradually faded.

I have messages out to a few Raise Your Pints people and Rep. David Baria, D-Bay St. Louis, who as a member of the Senate the past few years has made this one of his pet projects. I’ll update this post when I hear from either.

UPDATE: Raise Your Pints president Butch Bailey, who just called, was surprised the House even took up the bill today, seeing as how it had already met the committee deadline and was on the House floor comfortably before the next deadline.

“I was up here for the committee vote in the Senate,” Bailey said, referring to a similar bill clearing the Economic Development Committee earlier Thursday, “but I stayed around on the off chance that the House would take it up.”

He’s glad he did. “This is just one step in the process, obviously, but I’m grateful. Really grateful, especially since it passed by the margin (22 votes) that it did.”

Bailey said he and other folks connected to RYP are still making their case to Senators, who could take up their own version of the bill Friday.

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