In late April, I found myself in Brownfield Texas, for Newsom Grape Day. If you have never attended, you should. Keep your eyes and ears open, and you will learn something. You get to visit with a lot of good people and have the opportunity to drink some really good wine. It was well-attended and a really well-run event. Thanks to Neal Newsom and his team for putting on a good show every year.

The May runoff elections just occurred. This when we find out if the efforts to significantly change the makeup of the Texas House of Representatives is successful, or if the massive amounts of money that have been spent to date to make that change have been spent in vain.

The disruption caused by this current election cycle reaches beyond just those individual candidates running for office. The staff turnover, other member angst and lobbyists handwringing have all reached an 11 on our amplifiers. Lobbyists don’t like change. Status quo and predictability are our comfort zone. However, I feel certain that come next January 14, 2025, members will take an oath, the session will begin, bills will be filed, committees will meet, and life in the Texas legislature will continue. Every session is different, and this one will be just the same.

The much-anticipated TABC wine study is coming to a close with a final report due out sometime soon. The three main points the study is focused on are the need (or not) for a “farm winery permit,” the current method of transferring funds to TDA to be spent on promoting Texas wine, and the illegal shipments of wine within and into Texas.

All three of these issues reveal areas of concern for those in the industry. Despite the agreement that the 100% Texas wine issue would not be visited again for several more sessions, here we are again, same song different verse. The reasons that the 100% Texas wine requirement were a poor idea two sessions ago are the same now. It is unnecessary, duplicative, and harmful to certain types of Texas winery business models (several of whom buy significant amounts of Texas grapes). Something that TWGGA has always championed is helping all of those in the industry, not just a select few who don’t care for the competition. Texas’s explosive wine industry growth is not because we stop people from getting in the industry, but because we encourage competition and entrepreneurship. Current Texas alcohol law reflects those beliefs.

The other issue we should not ignore is the interstate commerce problem that these types of laws bring to the forefront. You can’t have a state law that is more restrictive to entities outside the state than those same types of entities within the state (this explanation is an oversimplification). Passing bills that trigger lawsuits is never a good idea. Our current set of winery laws create a situation where we are a little bit “pregnant.” Creating another cause of action would seem to be a less than stellar idea.

The other two issues addressed in the study—illegal shipping and untying the knot around promotional funds distributed to TDA—are both issues TWGGA supports. The consensus is that both of these can be addressed without a legislative fix. Let’s hope that is the case and we will do what we can to assist the agency in that effort.

At the most recent TABC commission meeting, there were a couple of items of interest. TABC released the draft for the agency strategic plan. If you have time, it’s worth a read just to understand where the agency is going and what its priorities are. Its short, so it won’t take too much of your time. I include the link here.

The other item of interest came out of the executive meeting. The board has recommended that Executive Director Thomas Graham be compensated appropriately. At this level those types of recommendations have to be approved by the legislature. Last session this request was not approved—let’s hope it makes the cut this session. Graham has been very accessible and easy to work with. He has fostered a very professional atmosphere at the agency, and their customer service continues to improve. He deserves a raise.

TWGGA regional meetings are on the calendar. Please try to attend and bring your suggestions and questions. The upcoming legislative session will no doubt be interesting and compelling. TWGGA will do all it can to ensure your business experiences as little disruption as possible.

—TWGGA Legislative Advocate Kyle Frazier

Back to Association News