Congressman Richard Neal addresses BA Members; Offers HR 4278 Forecast

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Congressman Richard Neal (D-MA) graciously gave of his time to participate in the September 30th Power Hour, providing an update on the status of H.R. 4278, legislation he introduced that would provide small brewers a graduated federal excise tax rate. Before being forced to end the call, sooner than planned to catch a plane back to his home district, the Congressman commended small brewers for their efforts in gaining 108 co-sponsors for H.R.4278.

After a brief status update on where the bill stands, Mr. Neal shared his belief that the initiative might have an opportunity to move in the November lame duck session which will begin on November 15th following the general election on November 2nd.  Because the provisions contained in H.R. 4278 are more likely to be amended into a larger bill, work will need to be done to identify the right legislative carrier once Congress reconvenes.

Congressman Neal fielded questions from Brewers Association Board Chair Nick Matt, who also introduced the Congressman, and Pete Johnson of the Brewers Association (BA) who relayed questions asked by participating BA members. On the issue of what members can do to continue to help the cause, Neal emphasized the need for additional co-sponsors, but also encouraged brewers to visit their Representatives’ district offices and also invite them to visit their breweries. “Representatives will be happy to see you,” he stated, reminding listeners that a “small stop by always helps.”

Asked about the strategy for 2011 should the bill fail to move before the new Congress is sworn in, Mr. Neal saw no reason why he and small brewers could not “hit it hard” in 2011, but that building broader support for the bill would be key and he hoped that brewers would help build the list of co-sponsors substantially. He even included House leadership in the equation, noting that the House speaker hails from the strong craft beer region of San Francisco: “Let the speaker know of your interest,” he explained.

Before Congressman Neal had to sign-off, he said that small brewers had done a “nice job” in collecting co-sponsors, but emphasized that there is still work to be done and that the strategy for 2011 would be to reengage past co-sponsors and then seek out new ones to gain broad-based support. He left the call letting listeners know that he believed in what small brewers stand for and are working toward, and had a hunch that the small businessmen and women were “well regarded” by their Representatives.

Visit the Power Hour page for information on the BA Power Hour Teleconference Series.

Photo © 2010 Jason E. Kaplan
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