Legislation that would help beverage producers during an emergency among three bills from Rep. Kevin Waters unanimously voted out of committee

The Regulated Substances and Gaming Committee unanimously approved three bipartisan bills from Rep. Kevin Waters on Tuesday, including one that could provide a major boost to beverage producers during a disaster or state of emergency.

“I’m pleased to see all these bills moving forward in the process and I’m grateful to the committee for approving them,” said Waters, R-Stevenson. “Each of these policies does positive things, but the one that means the most to me is House Bill 2204. I witnessed firsthand the devastating effects of the Tunnel 5 Fire in my district last summer, so I knew we needed to do something that would have a significant impact.”

House Bill 2204 would allow beverage producers a temporary emergency permit – with no fees – to move their place of business to another beverage producing company in the event a natural disaster forces them to close.

Last summer, the Tunnel 5 Fire forced several wineries to shut down production and sales. The remaining wineries offered to open their facilities to five other companies. However, current law would not allow that to happen.

“We need to do what we can to help these businesses continue operating during emergency situations,” said Waters. “These producers took a big hit because of the fire and because there is no policy in place, there wasn’t anything we could do to help them. That needs to change, which is why I introduced this bill.

“As we all know, wildfires and other natural disasters are increasing and it’s probably a matter of when, and not if, something like this happens again. We need to get this legislation passed so our beverage producers can continue operating when a disaster strikes.”

The committee passed two other bills from Waters on Tuesday: House Bill 2260 and House Bill 2255.

HB 2260 intends to bring fairness to a situation that lacks equity. Under current law, when a store clerk sells alcohol to a minor they can be charged with a criminal penalty. If a restaurant worker or someone that serves alcohol sells to a minor, they are given a fine instead of being charged with a criminal penalty.

Under HB 2260, the Liquor and Cannabis Board (LCB) could impose a civil penalty for the store clerk instead of issuing a criminal citation.

“This bill would not only make things fairer, but it also addresses another issue,” said Waters. “Because law enforcement doesn’t have the capacity to deal with these violations, the law is not being enforced. If the penalty were changed to a fine, it’s likely the LCB would hold store clerks accountable for selling to minors, more often than is happening right now.”

Lastly, the committee passed HB 2255, which would require the LCB to regularly audit the data in the Cannabis Central Reporting System (CCRS), with a goal of identifying and preventing illegal inversion and diversion of cannabis into and out of Washington’s regulated cannabis system.

“We want to eliminate the bad operators by making sure the producers we work with are following Washington’s standards,” said Waters. “We need to make sure they report accurate and honest financial information and follow state policies and procedures. This bill would make that possible.”

All three bills will now wait for a vote on the House floor.

# # #