UPDATE: Distillers toast passage of third-party shipping, other measures

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UPDATE POSTED 12:10 P.M. MARCH 5, 2021

FRANKFORT, Ky. (WTVQ) – The Kentucky Distillers’ Association raised a glass to the final passage of three KDA priority measures, including House Bill 415, the update to last year’s historic direct-to-consumer alcohol shipping law that has become a model for the country.

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Sponsored by Rep. Adam Koenig, R-Erlanger, HB 415 passed the Senate by a bipartisan vote of 29-5 and now heads to Gov. Andy Beshear’s desk.

It passed the House last month by an overwhelming 82-15 margin.

KDA President Eric Gregory said there are now more than 15 states looking to introduce or expand their direct-to-consumer efforts which will create many new reciprocal markets to ship the Commonwealth’s coveted Kentucky Bourbon, craft beer, small farm wine and other spirits.

“We are extremely thankful to the General Assembly for passing this key update to last year’s bold reforms that will keep Kentucky at the forefront of spirits shipping to meet increasing consumer demand and strengthen our rightful title as the one, true, authentic home for Bourbon,” Gregory said.

HB 415 will allow the use of third-party fulfillment centers to efficiently ship bottles; set a level playing field for state tax collection on distillery gift shop sales; and establish guidelines for shipping alcohol samples to media, business and marketing partners, among other measures.

The General Assembly sent two other KDA legislative priorities to the Governor on Friday.
SB 67, sponsored by Sen. John Schickel, makes permanent the popular “take home cocktails” that have been a lifeline to restaurants and the hospitality industry during the pandemic. It passed the Senate 28-7 and the House 67-27.

“The cocktail movement has been one of the main drivers behind the Bourbon renaissance as bartenders – and even burgeoning home bartenders – have discovered the elegance and complexity of our premium small batch and single barrel whiskies in crafting mixed drinks,” Gregory said.

“Our restaurant, bar and hospitality partners have been decimated by the pandemic and continue to struggle in the recovery. They are tremendously important to our signature Bourbon and distilled spirits industry, so we have been thrilled to offer our full support and advocacy to this key bill.”

SB 68, also sponsored by Sen. Schickel, strengthens Kentucky’s workforce development efforts by exempting educational institutions from the state’s 600-gallon production requirement for licensure in their hands-on distilling courses. It passed the Senate 32-2 and the House 78-15.

“Senator Schickel always takes a leading legislative role on behalf of our homegrown industry as he understands the state’s archaic, Prohibition-era laws are in desperate need of updating to keep up with the Bourbon boom and today’s modern, consumer-driven economy,” Gregory said.

Although Kentucky produces 95 percent of the world’s Bourbon, there are now more than 3,500 distilleries in all 50 states, Gregory said. Distilling is the highest taxed industry in Kentucky, and remains the only place in the world that taxes aging barrels of spirits.

“There are a dozen states that now have more distilleries than Kentucky, but none can match our 200- year history and heritage of crafting the world’s finest Bourbon,” he said. “Still, we must remain vigilant and progressive each and every year in order to maintain our historic distilling monopoly.”

ORIGINAL STORY POSTED FEB. 26, 2021

FRANKFORT, Ky. (WTVQ) – The Senate unanimously passed legislation Friday designed to give relief to out-of-work Kentuckians who have been asked to return their unemployment insurance (UI) benefits.

“We cannot legislate that the executive branch functions efficiently or effectively,” Senate President Pro Tempore David P. Givens, R-Greensburg, said after citing a long list of widely reported problems within the state’s UI office. “What we can do … is make it possible for this administration to start to fix what they have broken.”

Known as Senate Bill 7, the measure would provide a procedure for people who received overpayments of UI benefits to request a waiver so they are not required to repay the money. The bill would cover overpayments made from Jan. 27 through Dec. 31 of last year.

For the waiver to be granted, the recipients must have received the overpayment through no fault of their own, according to language in the bill. The recipient would also have the right to appeal any denial of the waiver.

The bill was amended on the floor to double the amount of time an appeal can be filed to 30 days. The amendment was made by Sen. Adrienne Southworth, R-Lawrenceburg.

“The second part of the legislation deals with the future as we talk about a new system,” said Givens, the primary sponsor of SB 7. “This legislation puts in some integrity parameters to try to avoid some of the chaos and calamity we are dealing with now.”

SB 7 would also require the UI office to take numerous steps in the future to verify the eligibility of persons claiming unemployment benefits, prevent fraudulent filings of claims and prevent overpayments. Another section would entitle the state attorney general access to UI records to investigate and prosecute fraudulent claims.

“To the best of our ability, this legislation deals with today, a slight portion of the future and small elements of the past,” Givens said, “but we still stand in a place where the administration is culpable and responsible for the delivery and adequate oversight of this necessary fund.”

Senate Minority Floor Leader Morgan McGarvey, D-Louisville, defended the executive branch’s actions.

“If we are going to point fingers let’s look into the mirror too because this is a longer and deeper conversation than just unemployment,” he said. “We knew last year we didn’t have enough money to run the basic need and obligations of state government as it currently existed.”

The co-sponsor of SB 7, Sen. Danny Carroll, R-Benton, was one of many lawmakers who stood during a nearly two-hour floor debate to express frustration with how the UI office has handled a backlog of claims brought on by COVID-19 and the resulting business closures.

He said the executive branch hasn’t taken up the legislative branch’s repeated requests to help find a solution.

“It has been very frustrating trying to get answers and representing the people,” Carroll said. “People expect us to be able to help them. The reality is we haven’t been able to help them other than a few cases. It is very difficult.”

Sen. Tom Buford, R-Nicholasville, suggested statewide office holders in Frankfort should be required to stand in the unemployment line the next time an executive order is issued closing down businesses.

“Sometimes you have to put yourself in the miserable pit everyone else is in before you might want to turn around and fix it,” he said.

SB 7 passed by a 35-0 vote. The senators didn’t mention the more than 600,000 claims that have been processed cleanly with more than $6 billion in benefits paid since last year.

The bill now goes to the House of Representatives for its consideration.

In an unrelated matter, the Kentucky Distillers’ Association praised the Kentucky House for its overwhelming passage of House Bill 415, an update to last year’s direct-to-consumer alcohol shipping measure that has become a model for the country.

The bill, sponsored by Rep. Adam Koenig, R-Erlanger, passed 82-15.

KDA President Eric Gregory said there are now more than 15 states looking to introduce or expand their direct-to-consumer efforts which will create many new reciprocal markets to ship the Commonwealth’s coveted Kentucky Bourbon, craft beer, small farm wine and other spirits.

“This key update to last year’s bold direct-to-consumer reforms will keep Kentucky at the forefront of spirits shipping to meet increasing consumer demand and strengthen our rightful title as the one, true and authentic home for Bourbon,” Gregory said.

HB 415 will allow the use of third-party fulfillment centers to efficiently ship bottles; set a level playing field for state tax collection on distillery gift shop sales; and establish guidelines for shipping alcohol samples to media, business and marketing partners, among other measures.

The KDA applauded Rep. Koenig, Chairman of the House Licensing, Occupations and Administrative Regulations Committee, for his steadfast leadership in working for months with all interested parties to address issues of concern.

“Chairman Koenig continues to demonstrate collaborative and effective leadership in modernizing Kentucky’s archaic alcohol laws, which in turn is creating more distilling jobs and investment for the benefit of the entire state,” Gregory said. “We are profoundly thankful and toast his 100-proof support.”

HB 415 now goes to the Kentucky Senate for consideration.

Another bill approved by the House would allow parents and guardians of disabled minor or disabled adult to obtain a license plate to allow them to park in a handicap parking spot. This measure is sponsored by Rep. Shawn McPherson of Scottsville.

“This is such a commonsense issue that at first, I was surprised that this provision wasn’t already permitted,” McPherson said. “This measure would allow those parents and guardians of disabled children or adults to park in the handicap spot instead of parking across the parking lot and facing the decision to either drop the child or adult off or to wheel them across the parking lot.”

House Bill 363 also clarifies that in order for the parent or guardian to park in the disabled spot, they must be accompanied by the disabled child or adult.

House Bill 363 will move to the Senate for further consideration in the upcoming weeks of the 2021 general session. To review co-sponsors and specific details of the measure, please visit the Legislative Research Commission website or follow the link here.

The Kentucky House also passed legislation sponsored by Rep Steve Sheldon, R-Bowling Green, that would set requirements for appointments to the state Board of Education.

HB 178 would require appointments to the Kentucky Board of Education reflect equal representation and proportionally of the Commonwealth’s political affiliation, gender, and minority racial composition and provide that members can be removed if composition requirements are not met.

The measure also adds a student and a teacher to the board as non-voting members and would prohibit the sitting governor from reorganizing the board.

“There have been instances when the board was used as a political arm. Members should not be shuffled around because of political motives. These folks were appointed to the board for a reason, and we need to trust them to do their job,” added Sheldon.

HB 178 will move to the Senate for consideration. Details of the measure can be viewed on the Legislative Research Commission’s website at www.legislature.ky.gov.