Stumbo’s "beer bill" poised to clear Senate committee a day after Anheuser-Busch hits airwaves

03/02/2015 08:43 PM

FRANKFORT — The day before a Senate committee is set to hear a bill Anheuser-Busch says will cost nearly 200 jobs at its distribution centers, the beer maker reinforced that point in a one-minute television ad that began airing Monday.

But despite Anheuser-Busch’s public pressure, the Senate Licensing, Occupations and Administrative Regulations Committee’s chairman says House Bill 168 will be heard without revision Tuesday.

Sen. John Schickel, whose panel is scheduled to take up HB 168 during its 10 a.m. meeting, said he supports HB 168, saying the legislation would “put everybody on a level playing field,” and he expects many of his colleagues to follow suit once the bill reaches the Senate floor. The Union Republican said he would not present a committee substitute to HB 168.

“I think generally there’s support on it,” he said in an interview with Pure Politics. “Of course like anything else there’s differences of opinion, but I think generally they’re supportive of it.”

The bill, sponsored by House Speaker Greg Stumbo, would bar breweries from holding distribution and retail licenses, bringing them in line with the three-tiered approach for companies making, shipping and selling wines and distilled spirits.

Senate President Robert Stivers also sees bright prospects for the bill should it advance to the Senate floor.

“It appears from what I can understand and glean that there’s pretty substantial support in this body for the issue as it current came from the House,” Stivers, R-Manchester, told reporters, noting he expects the measure to move forward.

After the House passed HB 168 on a 67-31 vote last week, the next stop after the Senate, should the bill advance, will be Gov. Steve Beshear’s desk.

HB 168 would cause Anheuser-Busch to give up its distributorships in Louisville and Owensboro, but Schickel said the beer maker’s claim that the move would cost some 200 Kentucky jobs is overstated.

“Those are good businesses,” he said. “There’s demand for the product. Those jobs, if nothing else, will probably be enhanced.”

That’s not the perception Anheuser-Busch, which has led the charge against HB 168, is presenting as the General Assembly enters its final full week of work.

The company released a minute-long spot Monday, highlighting those who work in its Kentucky distribution centers.

“I am worried about this bill passing,” a Louisville truck driver named David Combs says in the ad. “I’m worried about my future. … This is all I know. I’ve got nothing else to fall back on.”

The ad can be viewed here:

“Our people make our company great, and these Kentuckians now find their jobs on the line because greedy special interests want to try to take our business,” Damon Williams, director of sales and marketing for Anheuser-Busch of Louisville, said in a statement.

“We oppose HB168 in its current form. It is nothing more than other distributors asking the government to take our property and they’ve already admitted in the media that they want these businesses for themselves. It is our employees who will be hurt and lose their jobs with Anheuser-Busch in the process.”

Not everyone shares the beer maker’s stance. HB 168 is backed by Kentuckians for Entrepreneurs and Growth, a coalition of craft brewers, retailers and independent distributors. MillerCoors also supports the legislation.

Stumbo, D-Prestonsburg, isn’t one to count votes in the other chamber, but he’s optimistic of HB 168’s chances after recent conversations about the bill.

“I hate to predict what the Senate’s going to do, but there’s quite a bit of support to keep the system pure,” he told reporters.

Pure Politics reporter Don Weber contributed to this report.

Kevin Wheatley

Kevin Wheatley is a reporter for Pure Politics. He joined cn|2 in September 2014 after five years at The State Journal in Frankfort, where he covered Kentucky government and politics. You can reach him at kevin.wheatley@charter.com or 502-792-1135 and follow him on Twitter at @KWheatley_cn2.

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