After passing different versions of a liquor omnibus bill, the Minnesota House and Senate were unable to come to an agreement on a final version of the bill yesterday, the last day of the 2017 regular legislative session. With large budget bills still outstanding when the clock struck midnight, a special session was called so legislators could have have more time to pass them, but the liquor bill is not among those up for discussion in the special session.
The bill, which held several provisions related to breweries and distilleries, also included language that would have allowed bars to stay open until 4am when Super Bowl LII comes to town in February 2018. Part of the agreement between the legislature and the governor’s office for entering into a special session prohibits amendments to bills that are up for discussion, which means that by failing to pass the liquor omnibus bill, the late bar close during Super Bowl weekend won’t be a reality, as the game will take place before the legislature comes back into session next spring.
The provisions in the omnibus bill that ultimately became the sticking points between the two legislative bodies pertained mainly to breweries and distilleries, which were added by the House and were not present in the version passed by the Senate in early April. A conference committee was convened over the weekend to try to hash out the differences, but they were unable to come to a compromise.
On Monday afternoon, Rep. Joe Hoppe (R–Chaska), the House sponsor of the bill, said he was hopeful an agreement was going to be reached after agreeing to strike the provision that would have raised the brewery production cap for growler sales from 20,000 barrels to 40,000 barrels of beer per year. Rep. Hoppe said he was willing to take that out of the bill to gain the Senate’s support, but an issue related to the vessel sizes breweries would be allowed to sell also emerged as a sticking point.
Currently, beer sold for off-site consumption at breweries must come in either 64-ounce or 750-milliliter containers. Under the language in the bill, breweries would have been able to sell or fill any vessel between 650 milliliters (21.9 ounces) and two liters (67.6 ounces). Rep. Hoppe said there was concern from the Senate that allowing breweries to sell 650-milliliter vessels gets too close to packaged products sold at liquor stores.
The special session called by Governor Mark Dayton at 12:01am on Tuesday runs through 7am on Wednesday. With a handshake agreement struck going into the special session, legislators must finalize the state budget today, including bills related to transportation, education, health and human services, and more.