As you’re hopefully already aware, today begins the 2009 Session of the Alabama Legislature. We have a part-time legislature that only works a few months each year, so our window to get bills passed is fairly small.

As always, I am hopeful. We have made progress every year since we began working on the ABV law in this state, and the only step left is getting the Gourmet Beer Bill through the Senate. Our chances look good.

That said, we’re likely in for another wild ride in the state legislature this year, as our deeply dysfunctional Senate rarely accomplishes much of substance. We certainly have reason to be cautious in our optimism as there is never any guarantee our Senate will pass more than a paltry handful of big ticket bills, leaving smaller issues of concern only to small constituencies on the table, untouched.

Watch the budget process, as the massive budget shortfall this year will be the source of a lot of drama. And one of the proposals for helping address the shortfall — new taxes on gambling — will surely make for a hot debate. Let’s hope they don’t get bogged down in that debate at the expense of all other issues in the state.

Though the effect wouldn’t be especially large, we can take comfort in knowing that passage of the Gourmet Beer Bill will have a positive net impact on tax revenue, as all the expensive beers many of us currently buy out of state would get purchased right here in Alabama. I would hope state legislators would welcome any increase in tax revenue in times like these.

We fully expect to repeat last year’s success in the House. And we believe we have the votes we need to pass in the Senate if they ever bring it to the floor. But don’t get complacent. Nothing is certain in politics, so we’re counting on all of our grassroots supporters to make phone calls and write letters when the time is right, to make sure our state legislators understand the importance of the Gourmet Beer Bill for many citizens in Alabama.

Free the Hops!