Watching Wisconsin: Governor Walker and the “Wisconsin Veto” Request

In Beer Politicsby Karl

KARL: In the past few days, the budget bill containing the amendment containing the motion that refers to wholesaling as it relates to craft beer in Wisconsin has breezed through the Assembly, sailed through the Senate and is now sitting on Governor Scott Walker’s desk, awaiting his signature.

Lest you think the battle is over, there’s still a little hint of light at the end of this legislative tunnel.  The Wassau Daily Herald recently reported that the Governor is going to take up to a week and a half to look over the bill before he signs it into law.  In the state of Wisconsin, the Governor is allowed the privilege of a specific style of line-item veto when it comes to appropriation bills, which means this motion could be cleared from the bill with a stroke of his pen.

The Daily Herald story ran on Saturday.  A week remains.

Actually, calling it a “line-item” veto isn’t completely accurate, but it gets you on the right track.  As this piece from The Atlantic explained in February, it’s what’s known as “The Wisconsin Veto,” and it affords the state’s chief legislator “a veto power on appropriations bills so strong as to be frankly comic. It’s not just a line-item veto; Walker has the power to veto individual phrases and words (PDF) — like “not” — from sentences.”  Strong stuff.

The good news: Walker might be considering it.  According to New Glarus’ Facebook page, it’s “rumored” that Walker might veto motion 414.  As mentioned in the FB note, Walker was on CNBC’s Squawk Box this morning, but despite numerous videos posted to the CNBC site (thanks, web producers!) we can’t find any mention of any potential veto usage.

It’s not just brewers that want Walker to scrub this motion from the budget.  We’ve recieved a letter from a number of Wisconsin representatives and senators requesting the Governor to exercise his right to remove motion 414 as well, the bulk of which is posted as follows:

The purpose of this letter is to request a veto of language inserted in the budget related to microbreweries and their ability to wholesale each others’ products, own their own taverns, and for contract brewers to purchase beer from other microbreweries.

There are over 60 craft brewers in Wisconsin. These small and growing businesses help define the very culture of this state. They will be greatly harmed by the new policy–a policy that should have been left out of the budget in the first place.

We have no business punishing these small entrepreneurs. They hire Wisconsin workers, buy their natural products here, and provide millions of dollars in tourism revenue every year.

As the number of big distributors shrinks, we have to ensure that these small business people are allowed to wholesale each others’ products and grow. In addition, this budget provision will negatively affect new contract brewers by forcing them to change their business models and hurting their chances of survival. Paralyzing legitimate small businesses this way should not be the policy of a state we all want to be “Open for Business.”

Governor Walker, we know you are an advocate for the state of Wisconsin and its small businesses and we trust that you will undo the damage done by the Legislature to these hardworking businessmen and women.

The letter was signed by Senators Bob Jauch (D-Poplar) and Glenn Grothman (R-West Bend), both of whom voted against the motion when it was in the Joint Finance Committee, as well as Senator Pam Galloway (R-Wassau).  Representatives named on the letter include Stephen Nass (R-Whitewater), Joseph Knilans (R-Janesville)  and Brett Hulsey (D-Madison).  The Wisconsin State Journal also has a report on the letter requesting the veto.

In a press released attached to the letter to the Governor, Representative Evan Wynn (R-Whitewater) added: “Small businesses are the leaders of Wisconsin’s economic recovery, and micro-breweries are no different. They employ many Wisconsinites directly, and many more through their purchase of quality Wisconsin ingredients. Wisconsin should be moving in a business-friendly direction and not legislating more needless government regulation.”

Grothman, Galloway, Nass and Knilans all voted to approve the budget in a party-line vote, but now are calling on the Governor to excise motion 414.  If our Wisconsin readers would like to call on the Governor to do the same, you can contact him here.




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About the Author



Karl has written about food, travel and beer for Chicago Magazine, Thrillist, Time Out Chicago, AskMen and more. His book, Beer Lovers Chicago, is now available via Amazon and other booksellers.If you're buying, he's likely having a porter or a pale ale.

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