Maryland lawmakers roll out the barrel for craft brewers

This article was republished with permission from WTOP’s news partners at Maryland Matters. Sign up for Maryland Matters’ free email subscription today.

This content was republished with permission from WTOP’s news partners at Maryland Matters. Sign up for Maryland Matters’ free email subscription today.

Maryland lawmakers have moved closer to a compromise bill that boosts the state’s craft brewing industry.

House Bill 1080 from Del. Carol Krimm (D-Frederick) and Senate Bill 704 from Sen. Brian J. Feldman (D-Montgomery) passed their respective chambers unanimously in the past week. The measure loosens franchise restrictions on small brewers and is a priority of the Brewers Association of Maryland.

Small brewers – those who produce 20,000 barrels of beer or less each year – currently must give 180 days’ notice and show good cause to end agreements with wholesalers. The bills moving through the legislature would shorten that length to 45 days and get rid of the “good cause” requirement. Brewers will also be allowed to self-distribute more of their own beer, increasing the current limit from 3,000 barrels to 5,000 barrels.

The provisions have been debated for years and were once part of Comptroller Peter V.R. Franchot’s Reform on Tap initiative. Democratic lawmakers refused to introduce the legislation on behalf of Franchot (D) this year, who has been engaged in a long-running feud with lawmakers.

If passed, the bills would mark the first time the state’s beer franchise laws will have been updated since they were enacted in 1974, said Brad Rifkin, lobbyist for the Brewers Association of Maryland.

“With respect to the changes we have been seeking on franchise laws, self-distribution and brewery modernization, we now have consensus on legislative changes and peace in the land between all interested stakeholders,” said Kevin Atticks, executive director of BAM.

Applying the brakes

The House of Delegates moved quickly on Monday to consolidate legislation that would require an environmental impact statement for transportation projects being built through public-private partnerships.

The move was seen as a way of slowing Republican Gov. Lawrence J. Hogan Jr.’s proposals to widen the Capital Beltway and Interstate 270.

The House Environment & Transportation Committee on Monday morning amended HB 1091 – a bill by Del. Jared Solomon (D-Montgomery) to require an independent rating assessment for transportation projects funded by P3’s – to include the environmental study. The bill got preliminary approval from the House in the early afternoon and then passed 96-42 in the late afternoon session.

Lawmakers had several bills in the hopper seeking to overturn or slow Hogan’s highway-widening proposals. But the Environment & Transportation panel concluded that Solomon’s bill was the best vehicle for confronting the plan.

“We applaud Delegate Kumar Barve’s push to get this common-sense legislation to the floor and through the House,” said Pete Altman, founder of the group, referring to the chairman of the Environment & Transportation Committee.

Because 270 runs through Barve’s district, Altman’s group vocally leaned on the chairman to craft a way of protecting neighborhood residents.

“For those of us living in fear of plans to widen I-270 and I-495, the bill provides much-needed additional oversight for an ill-considered project that has been rushed forward, despite the previous failure of widening I-270, and with little regard for public opinion or people whose homes and neighborhoods are threatened,” Altman said.

On Facebook, Barve said, “We have taken the first step to protect Rockville citizens from the threat of I-270 being widened.”

Conference committee #1

The first conferees of the General Assembly session have been named, to iron out the differences between the House and Senate versions of the bill to raise the state minimum wage to $15-an-hour.

The House conferees – House Economic Matters Chair Dereck E. Davis (D-Prince George’s) and Dels. Kathleen M. Dumais (D-Montgomery) and C.T. Wilson (D-Charles) – were named Friday. On Monday, the Senate named Finance Chair Delores Kelley (D-Baltimore County) and Sens. Malcolm Augustine (D-Prince George’s) and Brian J. Feldman (D-Montgomery).

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