Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Eyes of beer lovers across Mississippi now on Rep. Jeff Smith (R - Columbus)

For years, Mississippians have been clamoring for the Legislature to raise the limit on beer's "alcohol by weight" measurement.  Mississippi has the lowest limit in the nation, and it prohibits the sale of a large number of craft beers in the state.  Craft beers offer a wider range of tastes than the beers produced by the mega breweries like Anheuser-Busch and MillerCoors, and sales related to craft beers are pumping tax dollars into suffering economies across the country.  Further, the craft beers have a lower proof than liquor, so it's not as if selling craft beers would effect drunk driving rates.

Past efforts to change the limit have previously died in the Senate Finance committee, which had been chaired by Sen. Dean Kirby (R - Pearl).  This year, the battle has moved to the House, where Rep. David Baria (D - Bay St. Louis) has introduced legislation that would raise the limit to 8%.  HB 26 has been referred to the Ways & Means committee, which is chaired by Rep. Jeff Smith (R - Columbus).  Smith may now kill the legislation all on his own by not calling the bill up for a vote.

The Ways & Means committee has standing meetings at 10:00 a.m. on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursday in Room 201-H at the Capitol, but no meeting has been held this week so far.  Committee meetings are announced on the committee schedule.  It will be interesting to see if Smith brings the bill up in committee, and if he does, how it fares.

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