FRANKFORT — A measure that would allow the state's bourbon industry to provide free bourbon samples at upcoming events such as the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games had a brief moment of hope Wednesday, but later in the day it appeared to be in jeopardy.
The state Senate voted 32-3 to pass Senate Bill 5 on Wednesday to allow free bourbon samplings indefinitely. But the House later voted down a similar measure, House Bill 6, on a vote of 51-43.
Later Wednesday, the Senate bill was referred to the House Licensing and Occupations Committee and given its first reading in the House, which means there still could be time to work out an agreement before Friday, when the special session is scheduled to end.
"I would suspect that it is in jeopardy," said House Speaker Greg Stumbo, D-Prestonsburg, after the House defeated the measure. "I think that if they want a bill, the proponents need to come to the table with some sort of reasonable compromise."
Eric Gregory, president of the Kentucky Distillers Association and a backer of the bill, said the industry will be talking to the 51 House members who voted against the measure. He said the industry is against allowing the measure to sunset after the World Equestrian Games this fall at the Kentucky Horse Park in Lexington.
The sponsor of SB 5, Sen. Ernie Harris, R-Crestwood, said it not only would allow promotional samplings during the Games at the Kentucky Horse Park in Lexington Sept. 25 to Oct. 10 and the National Conference of State Legislatures in July in Louisville but at other conferences across the state. Currently, free samples can be given only on bourbon distilleries' properties.
Many of the 51 legislators who voted against the measure are from "dry" counties where alcohol is not served.