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Senator asks for residents' feedback on beer bill
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Each year, the Georgia General Assembly is asked to consider a significant number of bills that will change the way the state operates. There are three bills that I especially like your feedback.

Senate Bill 63 The Beer Jobs Bill

Currently, Georgia follows a three-tier system when it comes to the sale of alcohol and malt beverages. Under this system, manufacturers can only sell to distributors, distributors can only sell to retailers, and retailers can only sell to individual consumers. This has helped keep tight regulations on the industry and create a more efficient tax collection method. However, with the recent popularity and growth of the craft beer industry, this system has brought to light an unintended consequencecraft-brewers that brew beer are not allowed to sell their product at the brewery to customers to consume at home. The beverage must be consumed on-site or sold thru a distributor and then a licensed retailer. They can only give their product as samples to of age tourists at the facility.

SB 63, sponsored by Sen. Hunter Hill (R Atlanta), would allow licensed breweries to sell limited amounts of their malt beverages for off-site consumption. The bill would also allow licensed brewers like the locally-based Terrapin Brewing Co. to sell limited amounts of beverages in their tasting rooms to the public. This bill limits the sale to 144 oz. per person, per day, for off-site consumption. SB 63 only concerns the sale of malt beverages to individual consumers and does not change or authorize the sale of malt beverages from a brewer to a licensed retailer. This is a growth industry in Georgia, and we are one of five states that do not allow this type of sale. I am a co-sponsor of the bill because I believe it helps tourism and economic development in our state. I ask for your thoughts on the three-tier system.

Senate Resolution 135 The Constitutional Amendment for Horse Racing and Wagering to help fund HOPE scholarships

The HOPE scholarship program is, without a doubt, one of the most successful education initiatives in Georgia history. Since the program started, over 1.6 million scholarship recipients have been able to attend one of Georgias excellent universities and technical colleges, and it has helped fund pre-k for thousands of children in our state thanks to funding through proceeds from the Georgia Lottery. Georgia has had horse racing in its past. Pari-mutuel wagering (which creates a betting pool based on odds) on the sport is currently not allowed but could be put to a vote if Senate Resolution obtains a 2/3 vote in the House and Senate to allow the public to vote.

SR 135, sponsored by Sen. Brandon Beach, proposes a constitutional amendment that would let Georgians decide whether or not to allow pari-mutuel wagering on horse racing. The net proceeds would be used to supplement Georgias HOPE scholarship program, as well as the state Pre-K program. The funding and proceeds for such a program would be accounted for in a separate budget category, and would become part of the Governors annual budget recommendations. I see good and bad aspects of this proposal, and I would really like to hear your thoughts on SR 135.

House Bill 170 Transportation Funding

Georgia has struggled to find a way to revamp its transportation funding structure in recent years. No one has been able to come up with an acceptable plan B after an attempt to pass regional TSPLOSTs throughout the state failed a few years back. Georgia has seen a drastic drop in the amount of money received from the Federal Highway Trust Fundthe money available to our state has declined 12 percent, compared to 3.5 percent nationally. It is clear that Georgia does not have time to waste when it comes to finding a solution to transportation funding.

Do we need better roads? Yes, I believe we do. The next question we need to ask ourselves is how do we create the funding required to make these improvements? This is a house bill, but at some point it will come to the Senate for consideration. We are already considering several options, and I would love to hear your ideas for transportation funding.

I would like to remind everyone to please take the time to fill out the survey printed in local newspapers throughout the 51st District and return them to my office at the Capitol. Feedback on these and other topics help me to better represent you. My staff and I keep very thorough notes of the topics discussed in every phone call, email or office visit because your voice matters.

Please continue to stay in touch with me and share your thoughts as we work through the legislative session, especially as more bills start moving through the legislative process. As always, I am honored to represent you in the 51st Senate District.steve.gooch@senate.ga.gov

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