The seemingly glacial pace of the state legislature is thawing, with the now-infamous Senate Bill 314 finally getting its hearing today (Monday) before the Senate Corporations and Transportation Committee. The bill is listed second on the docket, though it does not necessarily mean it will be heard in that order. There are eight bills in total scheduled to be heard today.
Based on our communication with the New Mexico Brewers Guild, this could be the end of the line for the bill that seeks to substantially raise the excise tax on beer and other forms of alcohol. Of course, it does not mean the fight is over, as House Bill 398 has also been introduced, offering up almost the exact same wording.
The sponsors of the two bills, Albuquerque-based Senator Cisco McSorley (D) and Las Cruces-based Representative Joanne Ferrary, will be hosting a press conference in Santa Fe around the same time SB314 will be learning its fate. In a surprise to no one, this presser was announced by Peter DeBenedittis, the leader of the group Alcohol Taxes Save Lives & Money. It has always been his group, which seeks to eventually ban alcohol in New Mexico, that has been behind these bills.
Here is the full text of the email that DeBenedittis sent to the media (we were not included, but another reporter was kind enough to send it to us). It lays out his reasoning, though it does not include just where he gets all of his statistics from, but basically, if you like to go out and drink beer, you are painted as his enemy.
Please join Senator Cisco McSorley (D-Bernalillo) & Rep. Joanne Farrary (D-Dona Ana) for a Press Conference on their bills to address the deaths, health problems being subsided by New Mexico’s low alcohol taxes.
The Press Conference will be held at 10:30 AM in Room 318 of the Capitol on Monday, Feb.20. According to the Centers for Disease Control, New Mexico leads the nation in people drinking themselves to death. 1 in 6 working age New Mexicans die from excessive drinking. SB 314 and HB 398 would raise alcohol taxes 25¢ per drink, leading to a 10% reduction in alcohol consumption. The immediate health benefits for New Mexicans will be:
52 Lives Saved the first year
More than 300 acts of violence prevented
Over 12,000 cases of alcohol abuse and dependence prevented annually
Over 7,000 fewer underage drinkers a year.
Data from Research and Polling shows 76% of New Mexicans support these bills.
Right now state taxpayers foot an $800 Million a year bill for the extra police, court cases, detention, ambulances and medical care caused by excessive drinking. These bills help correct the problem by raising $160 Million in revenue from those causing the problems. Half of New Mexicans haven’t had a drink in the last 30 days and won’t be affected by an alcohol tax increase. Responsible drinkers will pay an average of less then $10 a year more, while the 19% of New Mexicans who drink excessively will pay 3/4ths of the increased tax.
Please join Senator McSorley and Representative Farrary at 10:30 AM on Monday, February 20 in room 318 to hear their statements and answer your questions.
Peter DeBenedittis, Ph.D.
Director, Alcohol Taxes Save Lives & Money
We would love to see where he gets some of that data. The 76 percent support the bills part is bad enough. Honestly, though, half of the people in New Mexico have not had an alcoholic in the last 30 days? Is that just adults or is he including children in that?
Also, for those who have criticized our coverage of this issue by arguing that breweries and other entities must pay their share to help fund our schools, take note that nowhere above does it say these new taxes will go to education. Instead, they are aimed at covering one-fifth of the total cost of excessive drinking in New Mexico, or so DeBenedittis wrote.
Due to our day jobs and such, it is unlikely that any of the Crew will be in attendance. If anyone out there is able to go to the press conference, please, record the session and send us the audio. We will give you a Crew supporter T-shirt for free or buy you a couple pints. Other media entities may be present to take notes, and hopefully someone from the Guild will be there to represent the breweries, but the more sources we have, the better.
We will monitor how these events turn out today and report back to all of you as soon as we have the confirmed information.
Stay vigilant, craft beer lovers.