The Next Alcohol War?

In previous sessions, alcohol policy has proved to be a battlefield where the building quickly divides into two armies of lobbyists. We’ll see if such a brouhaha develops around HB433.  It had its hearing last week in the General Laws committee. Rep. Robert Cornejo, the sponsor of the bill, is chair of that committee. That would seem to help its chances this week when it will likely be voted on.

The background – from one observer…. State rules, regulations and laws restrict truthful information about alcohol prices from being advertised to Missouri consumers – restrictions that are the subject of an ongoing federal lawsuit and current state legislation. The 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals recently kept alive a federal lawsuit alleging Missouri’s alcohol regulations and laws violate the First Amendment by restricting the free flow of truthful information to consumers… House Bill 433 has been introduced in the Missouri Legislature to allow retailers selling alcohol to offer specials, discounts and coupons to consumers and to advertise those discounted prices.

The legal challenge to Missouri’s restrictions on free speech has been in the federal courts since 2013, and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 8th Circuit recently declared that the lawsuit filed in the lower court has sufficient facts to back up its legal challenge and should be heard by the court. The lead plaintiff is the the Missouri Broadcasters Association, which represents the state’s radio and TV stations…

HB433 declares that retailers may “Purchase, publish, and display advertisements that list the amount of the rebate or discount and the retail price after the rebate or discount.” It also allows coupons, prizes, rebates, consumer discounts and loyalty clubs to be advertised by alcohol retailers, as is the case for other types of retailers’ loyalty clubs. Explaining his bill, Rep. Cornejo said, “To me, this is a common-sense step,” and “pro-consumer.” And, he said, “The opponents are afraid of competition.”

Cornejo warned that the current Missouri restrictions are unconstitutional First Amendment restrictions, and if federal courts ultimately throw them out, without passage of HB433 to lay out a constitutionally sound state position, “Missouri becomes the wild, wild West.”

 

One of the heavies backing the bill is Total Wine & More. Their lobbyists are: Mike Gibbons, Trish Workman and Tony Dugger.

 

Originally in March 6 MOScout.