Legislation to redefine the relationship between liquor distributors, wholesalers and retailers has stalled in the Missouri Senate.
The bill has been filed each year since a 2011 ruling by a federal judge that redefined the meaning of the word "franchise." Supporters say it'll protect Missouri companies from out-of-state competitors, while opponents argue that it'll primarily benefit St. Louis-based distributor Major Brands. Kurt Schaefer, a Republican from Columbia, spent much of Tuesday afternoon blocking the bill on the Senate floor.
"If you're a small brewery or a small winery, good luck ever getting it onto a grocery store's shelves, unless you come to one of the two major distributors in this state who have over 95 percent of the market," Schaefer said. "(Then) you’re gonna pass a provision that says, 'and you know what? If they take your product and put it on the back of the truck and never deliver a case of it? Tough!'"
The liquor franchise language was added onto Senate Bill 114, which would allow home-brewed beer to be served at beer festivals. The sponsor, fellow Republican Senator Eric Schmitt of Glendale, says he's hopeful the original home-brewed beer language will succeed elsewhere if the original bill with the liquor franchise language doesn't pass before session ends.
Meanwhile, Major Brands CEO Sue McCollum issued the following statement around 5:30 p.m. Tuesday:
"We are grateful to the Senate leadership for bringing this vital matter to the floor. This legislation is important to hundreds of retailers, consumers and distributors across the state. We urge the Senate to finish this important legislation before the end of session. This bill would return our state to the three-tiered liquor control system we have enjoyed since prohibition. Thousands of Missouri jobs depend on this bill and those workers deserve an up or down vote before the legislature adjourns for the year."
Then shortly before 8:00 p.m. Ed Rhode with the group Missourians for Fair Competition Coalition also released a written statement:
"We are pleased with the outpouring of opposition the Missouri Senate expressed today to legislation that would give the state’s largest liquor distributor monopoly protections. These Senators are true champions of a free market economy because they know that competition will help create jobs and move this state forward. We will continue to stand with these Senators against anti-competitive legislation until the closing bell of the legislative session."
Follow Marshall Griffin on Twitter: @MarshallGReport