FRANKFORT — The Kentucky Distillers' Association is urging Gov. Steve Beshear to include a measure to allow free samples of bourbon to be served at the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games on the agenda of a special legislative session.
If it does not become law, the state's bourbon industry will withdraw its $100,000 support of an exhibit at the Games scheduled for Sept. 25 through Oct. 10 at the Kentucky Horse Park in Fayette County.
"This new law would help show off to hundreds of thousands of visitors one of the state's signature industries and will increase tourism, especially to the Kentucky Bourbon Trail with its distilleries," said Eric Gregory, president of the association.
The Democratic governor is expected to call a special session soon to come up with a two-year spending plan for Kentucky. Lawmakers failed to pass a state budget in this year's regular session.
Only the governor can call a special session and set its agenda.
Beshear spokeswoman Kerri Richardson said Tuesday the governor is concentrating on finding a budget agreement and is not considering any other issues until there is one.
Other issues, including unemployment insurance and charter schools, have been mentioned for the agenda.
Gregory said his association has asked the governor to try to work out an agreement on a so-called "bourbon sampling" or "tasting" bill for the special session.
Currently, Kentucky distillers are not allowed to conduct bourbon tastings outside their premises.
Under a bill filed in this year's legislative session by Rep. Susan Westrom, D-Lexington, a distillery would be allowed to offer samples at locations that are licensed to sell distilled spirits at retail to people 21 or older. The bill, which stipulated that customers would be limited to three ½ -ounce samples per day, was never called for a vote in the Senate.
The distillers' association is a $100,000 sponsor of the Kentucky Experience at the Games, a pavilion showcasing Kentucky products, Gregory said.
However, after the regular legislative session, the KDA board unanimously voted to withdraw its sponsorship unless the tasting legislation is approved, Gregory said.
The governor and legislative leaders have been notified of the board's action, he added.
John Nicholson, director of the horse park, was not available for comment Tuesday.
Westrom said the tasting legislation needs to be on the special session call because it would not only help the equestrian games but other conferences and events in the state.