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Updated April 23, 2012
In 2010, beer distributor Authentic Beverage Co. filed a federal lawsuit against TABC alleging violations of rights under the 1st and 14th Amendments and the Commerce Clause.
In October 2011, attorneys for the plaintiffs and the Office of the Attorney General on behalf of TABC filed cross-motions for summary judgment. Judge Sam Sparks issued a ruling on December 19, 2011, in favor of the plaintiffs on the first amendment free speech issues and in favor of the state on the 14th amendment equal protection and commerce clause issues.
The judge's ruling means that:
In January 2012, TABC issued a marketing practice bulletin to inform the industry of interim guidelines, pending new rules to replace the ones that were overturned by the court. Since January, TABC has engaged the public in the rulemaking process. At the agency's March 27th Commission meeting, the Commission voted on a set of proposed rules that abide by the judge's ruling. Specifically, the interim guidelines and the proposed rules allow manufacturers to designate high or low alcohol content on a malt beverage label using alcohol by volume or by using the terms "beer," "ale," or "malt liquor" as defined in the Alcoholic Beverage Code. The rules will be posted for public comment and are scheduled to be adopted at the Commission meeting in May 2012.