State Legislative Roundup: Key Issues See Action in Several States

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State legislative sessions are in full swing, and the Brewers Association (BA) government affairs team had a busy week testifying at hearings across the country and assisting state brewers’ guilds with legal guidance and legislative support.


In Wyoming, a long-negotiated compromise between craft brewers and wholesale distributors has cleared its first several hurdles, passing unanimously through the Senate Corporations Committee, then second and third readings on the Senate floor.

The bill, Senate Filing 0079 (SF 0079), allows brewers producing less than 25,000 barrels per year—whether located in Wyoming or in another state—to terminate contracts with their wholesaler without cause, removing a requirement for lengthy and costly litigation between the parties. Instead, the bill creates a 45-day window and a “good faith estimate” fair market value (FMV) payment to the wholesaler. If the wholesaler and brewer disagree on the amount, final compensation due will be established by binding arbitration.

“All my fellow guild leaders know what it takes to energize franchise reform,” said Michelle Forster, executive director of the Wyoming Craft Brewers Guild. “It’s a massive effort that takes years and carries zero guarantee of success. But thanks to the commitment of our scrappy little band of members and critical, nonstop assistance from the BA, we’re close to the finish line in Wyoming—something we didn’t think was possible just a few years ago.”

“This is a great step in the right direction for franchise law in the U.S.,” said Sam DeWitt, state government affairs director at the BA. “Finding common ground where brewers get immediate relief and freedom of movement in the marketplace and wholesalers are still comfortable with the compromise is what we were aiming for, and we were thrilled that Wyoming’s Senate has taken this seriously and prioritized the effort.”

The bill now heads to the House for introduction and should be referred to committee as soon as February 26. The current budget session in Wyoming lasts until March 8.


In Connecticut, small brewer advocacy for access-to-market relief prompted a well-meaning but very flawed bill that would have limited keg self-distribution to within the brewer’s immediate vicinity. It also would have worsened the Commerce Clause vulnerability of the state’s existing “craft cafe” permit by extending retail rights at such permittees to in-state only wines and spirits. Working alongside the Connecticut Brewers Guild, BA general counsel Marc Sorini submitted opposition testimony to point the legislature towards the need for other improvements, including the state’s biggest access-to-market challenge—Connecticut’s flawed alcohol franchise law.


In Maryland, BA senior director of federal affairs Katie Marisic testified in opposition to H.B. 663, proposed legislation that would lower excise taxes for spirits-based canned cocktails. This is the second legislative session that this legislation was introduced, with the claim that it would increase tax revenue for the state.

In 2023 Maryland’s Alcohol and Tobacco Commission (ATC) issued a report on its study of states that passed tax cuts in 2021 for spirits-based canned cocktails under the guise of additional tax revenue and cost-savings for consumers. The report found that the reduction of the tax rate for low proof spirits has “not led to an increase of sales of these products to fully offset the revenue loss, nor as per market data provided to the ATC, did the retail cost of these products change in any beneficial way for the consumer.”

The BA also joined other beverage alcohol associations in a letter to the Ways and Means Committee expressing opposition to the legislation. The BA and Brewers Association of Maryland also opposed H.B. 1072, which would increase sales taxes on alcohol beverages from 9% to 10%.


The Ohio Craft Brewers Association continues to make strides in their franchise reform efforts. The Buckeye Institute, an independent think tank, released a new policy brief, Brewing Freedom: Ensuring the Freedom to Contract for Ohio’s Craft Brewers, urging Ohio lawmakers to free Ohio’s small craft brewers from the state’s anti-competitive alcohol franchise law that “disproportionately empowers distributors to the detriment of small craft brewers.” The brief found that existing law undermines a would-be competitive market, negates the market benefits of competition, and limits the freedom of brewers to act in their own best business interests. The author of the paper urged Ohio’s lawmakers to change the law to “allow craft brewers to seek new distribution contracts as needed and allow distributors to sue brewers for breach of contract if necessary.”


Georgia’s Senate Bill 163, the Fair and Open Access to Market (F.O.A.M.) Act, received a hearing in the Senate Regulated Industries and Utilities Committee on the day of the Georgia Craft Brewers Guild (GCBG) hill climb. The hearing featured testimony from GCBG Executive Director Joseph Cortes, the BA’s Sam DeWitt, and several Georgia brewers sharing their stories of being too small for wholesalers to take notice of, the need for self-distribution, and raising the to-go sales cap from one case per customer per day to three. The bill originally included beer franchise law reform provisions, but these were not included in a subsequent draft of the bill.

The GCBG and BA supported its F.O.A.M. Act efforts with a hill climb that was well-attended, with more than 80 members present for a press conference, and to lobby senators to put the bill up for a vote. Unfortunately, despite the great turnout from brewers, the Regulated Industries Committee did not hold a vote on the matter, dealing a serious blow to passage in this legislative session. The Georgia team is now discussing next steps and determining the best path forward.


Indiana sought and authorized contract brewing this session, known in the legislature as “collaborative brewing,” expanding brewers’ rights in the state and giving opportunity to startups without the capital for a brick-and-mortar location. An attempt to pass direct-to-consumer shipping was short-circuited by concerns over a pending lawsuit. Despite the efforts of the BA’s Marc Sorini and Sam DeWitt, those concerns could not be overcome this session.

The BA team will continue its activity in states across the country to ensure fair legislative treatment for America’s small and independent brewers. Brewer support of both the BA and their state brewers’ guild is critical to success of these efforts. Brewers must also remember to take a long-term view towards government affairs, as few contentious issues succeed in becoming law in their first attempt at passage. By working together for the long-term interests of small and independent brewers, eventually we will see results.

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