Article by Leanne Holley, Texas Wine and Trail Magazine
After much debate as to the why’s and how much the Texas Legislature is willing to regulate the Texas Wine Industry regarding HB 2537, Texas Wine and Trail Magazine made contact to help get answers from Senator Carona, sponsor of the Bill. The response came in less than 24hrs from Steven Polunsky, Director of the Texas Senate Committee on Business and Commerce.
The introduction of HB 2537 makes a broad stroke statement, alluding to regulation changes that leaves Texas winery owners more than a little concerned:
A BILL TO BE ENTITLED
relating to production requirements for holders of winery permits.
The text for HB 2537 is short and to the point, however it has caused many in the Texas wine industry – grape growers included, to take serious notice and for sound reason. Most importantly because Texans have never been a fan of government regulation. Mr. Polunsky assured me that Senator Carona was appreciative of the concerned inquiry, “He is in fact a supporter of the wine industry, as evidenced by the many bills that he has authored, sponsored, or allowed to move through his committee that benefit the industry and consumers.” I was also reminded that Texas has had to revise and update its Alcoholic Beverage Code to address things like wine sales over the internet, which were not anticipated when the code was written. Internet sales are contributing wonderfully to boost sales in Texas which at present has no economical way to distribute local wines across such a large area.
Mr. Polunsky provided more details for Texas Wine and Trail Magazine to share with concerned winery owners, wine producers, grape growers, and Texas wine consumers.
o This amount was decided on because a person can currently manufacture up to 200 gallons of wine without a winery permit; thus, this number is very attainable and reasonable.
o This ensures that in order to be a winery, the permit holder must actually produce 200 gallons of their own wine, and
o Ensures that wineries can continue to have tasting rooms.
o In response to concerns we heard in committee this requirement can be met through an alternating proprietorship; or
o By the permitee at the permitted location, or at a permitted location owned and operated by the permitee; or
o Under an agreement with another winery permit holder for a bottling brand under the Department of Treasury Tax and Trade Bureau Basic Permit trade name application.
o TABC would establish rules for wineries to periodically provide these reports to them.
o This reporting will give the Legislature a clearer idea of how many retail wineries currently exist in Texas.
Several Texas winery owners are heavily affected by HB 2537, but ALL in the industry are rightfully worried this bill is setting a strong precedent for government involvement, burdensome reporting, and further regulations, especially if no one raises an eyebrow or takes the time to voice their concern. If Senator Carona is truly a champion of Texas wine, he’ll continue to view the industry’s growth as an economic and cultural incentive to the State (not as a threat to large campaign contributors in big beer) and legislate accordingly. Texas Wine and Trail Magazine sincerely appreciates Senator John Carona, and Mr. Steven Polunsky for taking the time to respond, and hope the above information provides better direction for any questions those concerned still have.
This bill is on the Senate intent calendar today, so call the Senate Committee on Business and Commerce for questions, concerns, support or opposition: (512) 463-0365
photo credit: saveur.com