Distributors and beer makers were at odds this morning over a bill that would have barred brewers from having a financial interest in a licensed wholesaler's business.
The bill's sponsor, Jeremy Pisca, executive director of the Idaho Beer and Wine Distributors Association, squared off with Jim McClure, a lobbyist for beer conglomerate Anheuser-Busch, through testimony before this morning's meeting of the Senate State Affairs Committee.
"The State of Idaho is not alone in trying to close down this loophole. There are many states trying to close down these loopholes," Pisca told the committee.
Pisca described Idaho's three-tier system, which separates beer makers from distributors and purchasers to ensure a balanced, fair market. He described the bill as codifying the status quo by preventing any plans brewers like Anheuser-Busch might have to snap up wholesalers.
McClure disagreed, and claimed Pisca's attempts were not to protect the three-tier system, but to give wholesalers an advantage.
"Anheuser-Busch opposes this legislation," McClure told the committee. "I hadn’t, frankly, realized until Mr. Pisca’s presentation to you that Anheuser-Busch’s business practices would be the focus of this panel."
McClure said his client has no plans to purchase distributors in Idaho, and that Pisca's bill is not about preserving Idaho business or jobs, but about barring a distributor from selling to whomever the distributor chooses. McClure called the bill an unnecessarily broad "protectionist" piece of legislation.
"We’re not here to sort out an industry fight between Anheuser and distributors, we’re here to set public policy," Idaho Falls Republican Sen. Bart Davis told the two men.
When the time came for a motion to approve or deny the bill, the committee remained silent. Chair Nampa Republican Sen. Curt McKenzie declared the bill dead in committee.