As the S.C. Senate Judiciary Committee meeting progressed yesterday afternoon, I could feel myself sinking deeper into my couch. The group of senators – who repeatedly got caught up on the term “sampling,” the ounce cap, the liability issue and more – seemed to be taking issue with the minutiae of the bill. It concerned me, and made me realize the bill wouldn’t pass through as easily as I’d hoped
Then they started landing punches. The maximum consumption amount was decreased by a pint, and then the hefty insurance requirement was imposed, and then the distinction between “samples” and “purchases” was implemented. I was shouting at my computer screen, asking why some senators couldn’t understand such simple language and applauding those who pointed out this isn’t such a complicated issue.
When all was said and done, I felt deflated. I wasn’t the only one. Twitter was chock-a-block with doomsaying, from brewers saying they wouldn’t be able to build tap rooms to consumers saying they should kill the bill at this point. In my haze of anger and confusion, I was inclined to agree that starting from scratch may be the best course of action at this point.
But then I slept on it. I was exhausted from providing the coverage that I did yesterday and answering questions, and I wanted to give my mind some time to breathe before kicking out my feelings. So, with some hindsight, here’s my concise thought on what everyone should do at this point:
I understand the gut instinct of everyone invested in this bill is to be angry. We didn’t get what we wanted – that being the original language and intent of the bill – and we’re upset with our elected officials. I get it, but trust me, this isn’t something to rage about.
At this point in the process, the bill is written in pencil, not ink. Your elected officials are still listening to their constituents and forming a stance. It still has to go through two readings in the full Senate. It can – and very likely will – change from what it is now. The amendments made to the bill yesterday are not the final word. There’s still plenty of time to change things for the better. This is not over.
Based on traffic and comments on this site yesterday, there is clearly an impassioned group of beer geeks in this state who want to work as hard as possible to get the best legislation possible on the books. You can and should still contact your senator and let them know why this bill matters to the state, the business community and you. But just because you might be pissed doesn’t mean you should convey any anger.
What you shouldn’t do is be rude, condescending, offensive or bitter. It reflects negatively on South Carolina’s entire brewing community if you act inappropriately toward the people who ultimately have the final word on the bill. This is not the kind of community we are. Complaining to your senator or representative is not going to help this bill at all. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t make your voice heard. There’s an easy tool for finding your senator here, and a full list of the S.C. Senate is here. I covered state politics for years and talked with a wealth of senators and representatives. Trust me: Even though you may not think so, your opinion and voice does matter to them.
I stand by my decision yesterday to say the bill had been “gutted” because of the changes made. I don’t think that’s an exaggeration because, to me, I feel the amendments strike right at the heart of the legislation, which is to create an easier path for breweries to dispense their product and make a living. But that doesn’t mean I’ve lost all hope for the bill or think it’s a lost cause. I’ve talked with enough people involved to know there’s constant work going on behind the scenes to get the best bill possible. Right now, people invested in the health and well-being of this legislation are busting their ass to make it as easy to digest as possible.
South Carolina beer geeks should count their blessings. We’re lucky that the Legislature is even taking time to consider such a bill. Other states have it better, but many more have it worse, and the fact this is even something up for debate should be cause for celebration. It wasn’t easy to get the Pint Bill on the radar in the first place, but brewers and beer geeks alike worked hard to show why it matters.
What good comes from giving up now?