Written comments submitted at today's hearings

Below are the written comments submitted by Tony Essalih in today's Senate Business and Commerce Committee hearings for SB 515-18
** Note, original post indicated these were a written version of verbal comments. These were actually submitted into the record in writing only - Tony did not speak during the hearing itself . The post title and introduction have been updated to clarify this **

Chairman Carona and members of the committee, thank you for the opportunity to testify before you today.  My name is Tony Essalih and I will be testifying on behalf of Open The Taps, along with my colleague, Tim Schauer. 
Open The Taps is a self-described non-profit, grassroots consumer advocacy group representing craft beer enthusiasts across Texas.  The group boasts more than 2,000 followers and 600 dues-paying members. 
We are here to testify in support of Senate Bills 515, 516, 517 and 518.  According to the Brewers Association, which is an industry group established to support craft brewers around the country, beer sales overall declined by 1.3 percent in 2011.  That same year, craft beer sales increased 13 percent by volume and 15 percent by revenues.  In Texas that year, craft brewers accounted for $76 million in sales and $16 million in state and local tax revenue.
Despite the robust growth the industry has enjoyed around the country, Texas still lags far behind other states in both the number of craft breweries – 9th overall with 59 breweries, compared to 269 in California – and the ease of bringing those products to market.
We believe Senator Eltife’s bills will help bring Texas on par with other states that are already reaping the economic rewards of the craft beer movement.  They will also help reinforce Texas’ standing as the state with the nation’s most hospitable business climate.
Consumer choice when it comes to access to products, goods and services is rarely, if ever, a bad thing.  Almost invariably, it leads to lower prices, better quality, and higher customer satisfaction.  We are confident that Senator Eltife’s bills will have that same impact on the beer industry.
However, we would be remiss if we did not mention our group’s strong support for including off-premise sales for personal consumption as a part of this package of legislation.  Open The Taps enthusiastically supports the right for craft breweries to sell their beer directly to consumers who want to enjoy that beer in the comfort of their own homes.
Once again, we support Senator Eltife’s bills as a good starting point for the debate and would be happy to answer any questions you might have or provide further testimony.  Thank you again for the opportunity.