When it comes to barbecue, trust but verify

Photo by Callie Richmond

“Differing weights and differing measures, both of them are abominable to the Lord”

—Proverbs 20:10

As Texans know, when the Legislature comes to Austin every two years, there is an avalanche of new laws and regulations that flows out of the Capitol. Most are pretty good and some are not. Some end up on the evening news, most do not. As Texas Agriculture Commissioner, I want to tell you about one bill that every Texan should know about because it affects something close to our hearts: Barbecue.

House Bill 2029 by state Rep. J.M. Lozano, R-Kingsville, is on its way to Gov. Greg Abbott and needs to be stopped. This bad bill gives places like barbecue joints a license to steal by exempting them from state consumer protection laws designed to protect Texans like you and me.

Right now, state law says that any business that uses a scale in a commercial transaction must have that scale checked by the state for accuracy, and must have the scale where it can be seen by the public. When you go and buy a pound of brisket from that corner barbecue restaurant, you can rest assured the scale they use will be accurate and where you can see it. It prevents any dishonest business owner from putting their thumb on the scale and ripping us off.

But somehow, the Legislature has decided that everyone that runs a barbecue joint is as honest as the day is long, that they’re so trustworthy they should be exempted from consumer protection laws.

Horse hockey. As Ronald Reagan said, “Trust but verify.” I trust my local barbecue guy, but I still want to see that when I buy a pound of sausage I’m getting a pound of sausage.

It only costs a barbecue restaurant $35 per year to register that scale. That’s about the same cost as a couple of pounds of brisket. Cowboy logic says that this isn’t about the fee.

A long time ago, the Legislature saw the need to ensure that consumers were protected from unscrupulous business owners. That’s why it vested the responsibility of keeping watch on those businesses with a state agency run by an elected, accountable official.

The Texas Department of Agriculture has been doing this job for over 100 years and continues to protect Texas consumers every day. There is no need to carve out barbecue restaurants and treat them differently than other businesses that sell by weight.

I encourage anyone that loves barbecue to contact Gov. Abbott and ask him to veto this legislation. Leave the “carve out” to the barbecue cutters and let’s “trust but verify!”

Sid Miller

Texas agriculture commissioner