House Introduces Bill to End Wine Shipments

This past week Dem. William Delahunt, Massachusetts, sponsored bill H.R. 5034 to support alcohol state regulation or effectively jeopardize legal wine shipments from wineries and retailers to consumers.  The bill is starting to gain momentum and is now co-sponsored by 21 House Representatives across the nation, including Florida’s Connie Mack.

OVERVIEW

Introduced by the National Beer Wholesalers Association (NBWA), the bill would strengthen the power of state governments’ control of alcohol sale – protecting the three-tier system greatly – and reduce consumers power to challenge state rulings.

So what exactly does this all mean?  Well there are a few highly disturbing portions of the bill to consumers, small wineries and small businesses listed below:

  • Establish that state laws override Federal laws: HR 5034 shifts burden of proof from state to challenger in all cases that deal with validity of any state law regarding the regulation of any matters involving alcohol beverages of any kind and makes such state laws presumably valid over any federal law that is inconsistent with its provisions.
  • Render Commerce Clause Ineffective: Would establish federal law that makes Dormant Commerce Clause inapplicable to any state law that deals with alcohol beverage sale or distribution unless they are demonstrated to “facially discriminate, without justification”.
  • Basically the bill would counter, deregulation established in the 2005 Supreme Court Case, Granholm vs. Heald, which ruled that discriminating between in-state and out-of-state winery shipments was against the Commerce Clause.  In lay-mens terms, you can’t let your wineries ship out-of-state if you don’t allow others to ship it…kind of monopolistic.  This case resulted in a domino effect of deregulating shipping regulations that has resulted in over 37 states allowing wine shipments today.  One of the states directly affected by this case…Florida.  H.R. 5034 threatens to overrule this Supreme Court case and overturn some laws that the states were forced to make by the federal governing body.

    HELP

    We need help…we, meaning any small winery, small business, believer in free trade, or just wino that appreciates good wine.  H.R. 5034 could threaten an already injured industry by picking on the smallest of producers.  For example, even if H.R. 5034 was successful in overturning Granholm v. Heald, New York and Michigan would once again begin restricting shipments in.  As the second biggest wine market in the U.S. (behind California), New York provides a huge number of customers for those small, mom and pop wineries in Napa and Sonoma.  Follow that by Florida (#3 wine market and also recently approved wine shipments) and those wineries are in big trouble.  We love small production facilities, they have a story, character and most importantly fantastic wine.  Jordan was once a small boutique winery, Far Niente, and Pahlmeyer.  Where would the industry be today if they were not allowed to grow?  Do we really want to see our cellars dominated by big brand labels, or do we want to be able to discover the next Prisoner or Robert Foley without flying to California.

    ACT

    Freethegrapes.org: Follow this great organization as they track the status of this and other bills threatening or encouraging wine shipments.
    Facebook.com: Join this group to support the movement against H.R. 5034
    WRITE YOUR REPRESENTATIVE: Click here to contact your local representative (click on contact your representative halfway down in the right hand toolbar).  Don’t have time to write a letter or just bad at it?  Not a problem, click here for a form letter provided by Free the Grapes.

    MORE INFORMATION

    If you’d like to read more about H.R. 5034 or about who supports/opposes it, click through to the links below.

    OpenCongress.org: All the details, straight from the source.
    Wine Spectator.com: Great overview of the bill.
    Wine Institute: Comment against the legislation.
    Family Winemakers of California: Comment against the legislation.
    Wine & Spirits Wholesalers of America: Applauds the legislation.
    National Beer Wholesalers Association: Applauds the legislation.

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    Posted on April 21, 2010, in Wine and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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