Why did Republicans Oppose Free Market Alcohol Reforms?

We have spoken here often at Red Maryland as to how backward Maryland’s Prohibition-era alcohol laws are. Currently for a brewer to sell their beer in a store, the brewery must sell first to a distributor, who then resells the beer to a liquor store. A middleman takes a cut of the profit that otherwise would belong to the brewery.

Correcting that impediment to the free market remains problematic so long as Speaker Busch continues to declare war on Maryland beer on behalf of his campaign treasurer, but unfortunately, those supporting the current system got an unexpected assist from Republicans.

The House Economic Matters Committee voted Friday on HB518, part of Comptroller Peter Franchot’s Reform on Tap Initiative. The bill would  be “Repealing certain restrictions on serving or selling beer by a holder of a Class 5 brewery license or Class 7 micro-brewery license; requiring an on-site consumption permit to be granted under certain circumstances; providing that the hours of sale for on-site consumption at Class 5 breweries are those set by a certain license; repealing certain limits on micro-breweries, farm breweries, and limited beer wholesalers; making a certain licensed beer manufacturer exempt from the Beer Franchise Fair Dealing Act; etc.”

Shorter version: it would remove impediments to Maryland breweries selling their product.

Trending: Candidate Survey: Chris Chaffee for US Senate

Unexpectedly, seven Republicans joined with ten Democrats to kill the bill in committee.

Let’s be clear here; if the seven Republicans who voted unfavorable on HB518 had sided with the free market, this bill would have passed out of committee.

Why did these Republicans side with the Democrats in voting against the free market? That’s a very good question. There was absolutely no political downside for Republicans to support the bill. It would show that they support small businesses, with many of the breweries that affected being located in their districts. It would have given them a great campaign issue for their re-election campaigns, and it would have shown their continued opposition to the Democratic political machine in Annapolis  Instead they decided to take the side of Speaker Busch, and other Annapolis insiders who make money from the crony capitalist status quo like Maryland State Licensed Beverage Association legislative chairman Jack Milani and the lobbyists for the distributors like Nick Manis and Steve Wise.

The Republicans that sided against the free-market on this issue were:

  • Chris Adams (District 37B)
  • Steve Arentz (District 36)
  • Susan Aumann (District 42B)
  • Seth Howard (District 30B)
  • Rick Impallaria (District 7)
  • Johnny Mautz (District 37B)
  • Warren Miller (District 9A)

It’s a frustrating list to see. While Rick Impallaria is usually off making poor choices in support of big government, it’s surprising to see some of the other names that are on this list, as they are usually on the side of smaller government and the free market. It’s even more frustrating when we see good guys make poor choices, especially ones that contradict the answers that they gave in their candidate surveys.

We’d welcome any of the seven Republicans who voted against HB518 in the Economic Matters Committee to explain their vote, and we will provide their rationale verbatim.

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