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NBWA, brewers meet at Capitol, vow "We're part of the solution." (2nd annual Joint National Beer Wholesalers' Association/Brewers legislative conference in Washington, D.C.)

In his opening address to wholesalers gathered, in Washington, D.C. for the 2nd annual Joint NBWA/Brewers legislative conference, NBWA president Ron Sarasin announced record attendance for the conference. Sarasin reported a preliminary registrant tally of 695, including 35 state executives and representatives of 422 beer wholesalerships.

"Our goal was to have one wholesaler from every congressional district in the country in attendance," he said, "and while we didn't quite reach that goal, we believe this will be the most effective conference yet."

Sarasin made note of the assistance of brewers for the second year in a row. "Our thanks for the great support of the brewers to help get this program together," he said.

In his opening address, Sarasin defined lobbying, and its purpose, in the context of the legislative conference. "You are exercising your constitutional privilege to petition your congressman," he said. "To lobby means to educate your member of Congress to the concerns of this industry. Wholesalers can most effectively communicate those concerns. "

In preparation for visits to their senators and representatives on Capitol Hill, wholesalers were provided with a briefing pack, including issue sheets outlining the industry position in several major issues; solid waste disposal, advertising warnings, the federal excise tax, and "political coffectness" at the Department of Health and Human Services. The kit included palm cards for quick reference on each issue. The pack also contained a card outlining the beer industry's contributions to the commonweal.

For their visits, Sarasin suggested that wholesalers limit time spent with each senator or congressman to 20 minutes. "You have to cover four issues in that time," he said, "so do not allow yourself to be side-tracked. "

Sarasin likened visiting a congressman to the everyday business of a wholesalership. "Do what you do every day," he said, "Take the order. You do it every day, so don't be afraid to do it here. Lay out the issues, and then ask how a member will vote. If they obfuscate, then say, "That's a wonderful answer, but does that mean yes or no?'

Offering a veteran's perspective on Capitol Hill was Representative Don Ritter (R.-PA), who has served in the House since 1978. Ritter pointed out that the Kennedy-Thurmond advertising warning bill may not appear in the house, but noted that it has strong support in the Senate. "The problem is," Ritter says, "the quality of beer commercials is so good that people fear that this kind of super advertising wins over young people. These concerns are fairly widespread among Congress.

"I don't think that the bill will move in the House," Ritter continued, "but Senator Thurmond may have enough clout to attach the bill to some other legislation in the Senate. That could make the bill come closer to being law, and it could show up almost overnight in some legislation. "

Ritter also noted his opposition to minimum recycled content legislation, national bottle bill proposals and excise tax increases.

I stand ready to fight with you against these well-intentioned by fundamentally unworkable proposals," Ritter said," and I strong recommend that you and you allies remain vigilant."

Ritter was followed at the podium by NBWA's new vice president of legislative affairs, David Rehr, who outlined the main issues for wholesalers to focus on, and emphasized NBWA's aggressive strategy. "We are part of the solution," he said, "and we are going to get on the offensive. We are going to be pro-active instead of reactive. So, when you meet the members. let them know what you're doing at home, and proudly report the progress being made.

"On the issue of the federal excise tax," Rehr said, our goal is to oppose future increases. There are bills before Congress requesting $5 billion increase in excise taxes. Some members may not recall that a 100-percent increase recently went into effect, and so we need to show what that tax increase has meant to individual wholesalers and brewers. Also, stress the impact that is being felt by the 80 million Americans who consume our products. "

Rehr also discussed advertising warning bills, HR 1443, sponsored by Joe Kennedy(D-MA), and S-664 sponsored by Strom Thurmond (R-SC). "These measures could circumvent free commercial speech," Rehr pointed out, "and there is a question whether ad warnings are appropriate for products that are perfectly safe when used responsibly. Point out to your member that there is no data showing that advertising promotes underage consumption. The proposed warnings will provide no new information," Rehr noted, "and would hurt advertising. Ask, "Can we count on you to oppose 14R 1443 or S. 664?"

On the subject of national forced deposit legislation (HR 4343/S 2335) Rehr pointed out that the measures could be considered a "1960s solutions to 1990s problems." He noted that one wholesaler told him that national deposit legislation would turn "a beer truck into a garbage truck." Rehr advised wholesalers to promote support for the Comprehensive Recycling Act (HR 945) instead.

The conference also featured a lively discussion between Jeff Becker of the Beer Institute and Robert Denniston, from the Office of Substance Abuse Prevention, in which the merits of a report put out by OSAP, "Healthy People 2000," were debated.
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Publication:Modern Brewery Age
Date:Apr 20, 1992
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