Napa Yes, Budget No

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BUDGET DAY PLUS 15 -- With legislative leaders again gathering, and adjourning, with no resolution to the state's budget woes today, we can at least give thanks for a new boost to the Napa wine industry.

Governor Schwarzenegger signed two bills into law today affecting the nation's most famous wine region. AB 2004 will allow more wineries to sell vino that can be consumed on the premises. Current law has tied most imbibing to wineries that also have a restaurants or bistro. The bill sailed through the Legislature with no opposition.

AB 2266 gives Napa County an extra 15 licenses for the sale of alcohol over the next three years. The state Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control ties the number of licenses to a county's population, which sometimes means the rare licenses are sold and re-sold for a hefty price. Folks in Napa complained that the county's population growth has remained fairly flat, while more and more tourists flock to the area looking for food and drink. The bill was supported by everyone, it seems, but the owner of two Napa restaurants who argued the extra licenses would "flood" the license market and "devalue" his investment.

Both bills were authored by Assmeblymember Noreen Evans (D-Santa Rosa).

Perhaps we should all make a road trip to Napa and bring back a gift for legislative leaders still split over the budget. After all, they've often joked in the past that budget talks are best paired with a nice wine.

Speaking of those talks... the governor has scheduled a meeting tomorrow with the four legislative leaders for a so-called "Big Five" confab.

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About John Myers

John Myers is senior editor of KQED's new California Politics & Government Desk. He has covered California politics for most of the past two decades, serving previously as Sacramento bureau chief for KQED News and most recently as political editor for KXTV News10 (ABC) in Sacramento. In 2014, he was named one of the nation's top statehouse reporters by The Washington Post. Follow him on Twitter @johnmyers.

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