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Beer Nuts: State Alcoholic Beverage Laws Front and Center with Lege This Week

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No doubt some of you may want to know the many ways the Texas Legislature is going to improve your opportunities this session to drink alcoholic spirits.

Toss the kids and forget Medicaid, there's always one or two more ways to tinker with the state's alcoholic beverage code each session. No doubt, such pleasant bills went down more smoothly today in the Senate Business & Commerce Committee than the impending contentious clash over payday lending.

So here, for your (responsible) enjoyment, are a few more ways that you may be able to enjoy the adult beverage of your choice going forth, beyond the highly publicized slew of craft beer bills passing through committee last week.

What you learn in the Texas legislature is that even the most conservative senator can carry adult beverage bills. Sen. Jane Nelson, R-Flower Mound, for instance, wants to be sure you can toast a glass of chardonnay past midnight at local wineries on New Year's Eve. As Nelson pointed out, Grapevine isn't Grapevine for nuthin'. That piece of legislation is Senate Bill 136.

Under Sen. Leticia Van de Putte's Senate Bill 828, we learn that out-of-state distillers had the right to thrust liquor samples in your face at package stores, while in-state distillers were not, putting them at a distinct disadvantage. Van de Putte, D-San Antonio, who led an interim craft beverage working group, also had a companion bill to allow on- and off-premise sales for distilled spirits apart from craft beers.

The state opened up licensing hand-crafted distilleries in 1995. The number of distilleries is up to 43, says Van de Putte. The working group was praised for its hundreds of hours of work, which we'll chalk up to (responsible) policy negotiations and not mutual tasting of hand-crafted vodka, rum, bourbon, gin and agave spirits.

And Sen. Kelly Hancock, R-North Richland Hills, whom I like to call Joel Osteen's doppelganger, noted that distilled spirits that are purchased in licensed areas of Ranger Stadium cannot be taken between concourses, leading some to possibly over-imbibe. Hancock's Senate Bill 400 would allow those who purchase adult beverages to take them back to their seat, as long as they remain in an open container and inside the ballpark.

All bills remain pending. The biannual revival of the Texas bill to end blue laws kicked off on the House Administrative and Licensing Committee this afternoon, and it will likely be killed by package stores.

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