Mad About Brew

Texas craft brewers are butting heads over proposed legislation that would allow them to increase their annual production while also limiting their ability to make large distribution deals. Senate Bill 639 is part of a series of bills aimed at forging a compromise between microbrewers and distributors, Austinist reports. The measure is controversial because it prevents brewers from receiving large payments in exchange for distribution rights, which are potentially worth millions of dollars.

Dallas’ Deep Ellum Brewing Company called the bill “a terrible piece of legislation” and “a huge step backward for microbreweries,” and the Buffalo Bayou Brewing Company in Houston referred to it as “the worst case scenario for small, self-distributing breweries.”

However, the package of bills does have some supporters, including Austin Beerworks, which outlined the advantages of the compromise in a post on its Facebook page. The Austin brewery’s owners wrote that while SB 639 will require some sacrifices, the overall agreement will “create new revenue streams for small brewers” by allowing them to produce more beer and sell it in more locations. 

The Bottom Line: The Senate’s Business and Commerce committee unanimously confirmed the bills, which are now on the list of items to be voted on by the full Senate. 

Oil Well That Ends Well

Anadarko Petroleum this week discovered a massive oil field in the Gulf of Mexico that could be one of the largest oil finds in the region’s history. The Financial Times reports the well, which could yield more than 500 million barrels of oil, extends about five miles below the seabed under more than a mile of water in the Gulf’s Shenandoah basin.

The Woodlands–based Anadarko owns thirty percent of the well, and several other Texas companies also have ownership stakes: ConocoPhillips, Cobalt International Energy and Marathon Oil—all headquartered in Houston—and Venari Resources, which is based in Dallas.

The Bottom Line: Industry observers speculate the discovery “may open up a new area of the gulf for oil production,” according to The Financial Times. An Anadarko executive told the paper that Shenandoah “has the potential to become one of the most prolific new areas in the deep water Gulf of Mexico.”

From Bag to Worse

State lawmakers are fighting to keep a lid on local laws that prohibit the use of plastic grocery bags, including the Austin ordinance that took effect earlier this month. State Rep. Drew Springer has filed a bill dubbed “The Shopping Bag Freedom Act,” which would forbid city governments from interfering in retailers’ decisions about the materials used in the bags they offer to shoppers, The Fort Worth Star-Telegram reports.

Springer says the reusable bag mandate puts a financial burden on stores and their customers, calling the policy a “hidden social tax on the poor” and a “misguided nanny-state agenda.” He also cautions that plastic bag bans could lead to further government restrictions similar to New York City’s recent ban on large sodas.

The Bottom Line: In February, the Texas Retailers Association filed a lawsuit seeking to invalidate Austin’s ordinance, arguing the policy violates the Texas Health and Safety Code. 

Winner of the Week: Texas Workforce Commission

The Texas Senate is moving forward with a bill that would impose harsher penalties on employers who intentionally withhold paychecks from their employees. The Austin Business Journal reports the bill would strengthen the Texas Workforce Commission’s authority to fine employers up to $1,000 for “failing to pay employees’ promised wages, paying them less than the full amount owed, or not paying them at all.”

The ABJ describes wage theft as a fairly common occurrence, citing a University of Texas study that found one in five construction workers had experienced it at least once.

Loser of the Week: Scott Ginsburg

Scott Ginsburg giveth, Scott Ginsburg taketh away. The chairman and CEO of Dallas-based DG FastChannel is suing his alma mater, Georgetown University, to retrieve the $7.5 million he donated to the school because it failed to name a fitness center after him, The Dallas Business Journal reports. Ginsburg claims he gave the money to Georgetown’s law school in 2000 as part of an agreement that granted him naming rights for the center.

But the university began to drag its feet after the SEC sued Ginsburg for insider trading, requesting a new arrangement without the naming rights provision. Ginsburg contends he never accepted the deal and is thus entitled to a refund.