Dallas Republican state Senator John Carona wormed his way into beer lovers' good graces two weeks ago when he cosponsored a quartet of bills aimed at making things easier on craft brewers in Texas.
The legislation, which has the support of both an impressive roster of lawmakers from both sides of the aisle and craft brewers, would tweak the "three-tiered system" established in the wake of Prohibition and allow, among other things, small breweries to bypass distributors and sell directly to retailers. It was, as Tyler Republican Senator Kevin Eltife put it, a way to "level the playing field for the small business segment of the Texas brewery industry."
Signing onto the bills seemed like a canny move on Carona's part, because beer. But almost as soon as the legislation appeared, Carona removed his name from the list of sponsors and filed craft beer legislation of his own in the form of SB 639.
The bill seems innocuous enough at first glance but, as Lauren Drewes Daniels reported Friday on City of Ate, the bill "would take a sizable bite out of Texas craft brewers' bottom line by prohibiting breweries from accepting payment for distribution rights." The proposal went over in the craft brewing community like a skunky bottle of Natural Light.
How to explain Carona's abrupt about-face? Cynics might point to the tens of thousands of dollars that have poured into Carona's campaign till from the likes of the Wholesale Beer Distributors of Texas PAC, Barry Andrews of Andrews Distributing, and others.
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Carona would like to disabuse you of that notion.
"My support of craft beer is well known. ... The bill I filed is a step along the path to passage of comprehensive legislation," he said in a press release issued Friday. "We are remiss if we do not take the long and wide view on these important provisions. Provisions such as reach back pricing, the alteration of a price by a manufacturer based on the price a distributor charges a retailer. This practice borders on price-fixing and must be addressed."
For those of you keeping track, this is the second time in recent months that Carona has taken a fairly progressive public stand, only to backpedal wildly and cave to the whims of his base. (See: Carona's embarrassingly brief embrace of pro-LGBT rights legislation.)
There goes the ever-important gay beer snob vote.