Wednesday, April 04, 2007
On this day:

While we're on the subject of Al-Kee-Hall

The Gourmet Beer Bill failed on a procedural vote in the Alabama House today, so it is likely that Alabama beer connoisseurs will have to wait at least another year before they are able to buy beers with higher alcohol content than the current limit of 6%.

The mechanics of this vote were kinda interesting. In accordance with Amendment 448 to the Alabama Constitution (called the Budget Isolation Amendment), the legislature is required to give special priority to the two budget bills that it has to pass each year. These bills allocate revenues from the General Fund and the Education Trust Fund, respectively.

In order to even consider a non-budget bill in either house before both budgets have been presented to the Governor, a special budget isolation resolution (BIR) for that bill has to be passed. As their sole purpose is to allow exceptions to the "budgets-first" rule, BIR's require a supermajority vote, which according to the Constitution must be no less than three-fifths of the members present. (The House rules pertaining to BIR's may be even stricter; the AP article linked above says a two-thirds vote was needed for the Beer Bill BIR.)

Since the budgets haven't been passed yet, today's House vote was on the budget isolation resolution to allow consideration of the Beer Bill; it was not a vote on the Beer Bill itself. When the roll was called, there were 49 in favor, 39 against, 1 abstention, and 16 not voting - five short of three-fifths and eleven short of two-thirds (assuming that "not voting" means "not counted in the total members present").

Dan at Between the Links has more here, here, and here. He's not too happy about it. Neither is Danner at Free the Hops, but he's still optimistic about the bill's prospects:
Realize that our House bill was not killed. It can still be put back on the calendar and we can get another shot. If we can convince a handful of today's "NO" votes to abstain or vote yes, this is worthwhile. We are FAR from finished this year. ...

Our House bill was not killed today; it simply did not make the floor for a vote. Our Senate bill is still very alive. Our local bills are still very alive. We just have a lot of work to do, me especially. And the result will be over 6% beer hitting the shelves somewhere in Alabama in 2007. We are FAR from finished this year.
If memory serves me correctly, this is the first year that the Beer Bill has even made it out of committee. Assuming that those who voted for the BIR in the House today can be counted on to vote for the actual bill, today's vote is clearly a good sign for its supporters. So, kudos to all the folks at Free the Hops for their hard work and determination. Keep it up, guys.