State of Texas: Alcohol and influence

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Many of the laws regulating alcohol in Texas date back to the days after Prohibition. They aim to keep producers, distributors and retailers financially separate. 

Experts say a lot of Texans don’t understand these laws and how they affect people. Jay Root, Investigative Reporter for the Tribune, says he’s not surprised.

“We have a very complicated set of laws,” Root said. “It’s riddled with exemptions.”

Root teamed up with KXAN Political Reporter Phil Prazan to look into the issue. They found that supporters believe the old laws promote public safety while critics think they create unfair obstacles for new businesses that want to make and sell alcohol.

They spoke to Scott Roberts, owner of The Salt Lick, a well-known Hill Country barbecue restaurant. Roberts wants to start a winery, but under state law, it’s illegal for him to own both a winery and a restaurant selling alcohol.

Since prohibition ended, lawmakers used a “three-tiered” system to regulate alcohol to separate those who make, distribute, and sell it.

Roberts says distributors in the middle tier have become too powerful. “It’s become a system to one tier now exerts its pressure over everybody else for their own self-interest,” Roberts said. 

Some lawmakers have pushed for changes, but there’s powerful opposition. “When you talk about alcohol regulation, they spread their money around so you have these huge bipartisan majorities in favor of this legislation,” Root said.
 

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