In the immortal words of Carol Ann Freeling in Poltergeist II “They’re Back.” Yes they are back and just as scary as before. The House of Representatives Bill H.R. 5034 or as my fellow blogger Tom Wark has titled it, The Wholesaler Protection Act, has been resurrected just last week as H.R. 1161.
Your Wine Rights Are Under Attack!!! Stop H.R. 1161.
Once again the Wine & Spirits Wholesalers of America has put forth the Community Alcohol Regulatory Effectiveness (CARE) Act this time under the leadership of Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) with a host of Democrat and Republican co-sponsors. The stated goal of the bill is to protect state’s rights when it comes to alcohol regulation allowing each state to totally ignore the constitutionality of their acts. The bottom line is that no state law related to the direct shipping of wine or beer could be challenged in federal court.
In general, the courts have been a good friend to the wine consumer, often striking down protectionist laws that restrict your ability to buy wine directly from the winery or from discount retailers on the web. Of course this means that in most states we now have much greater wine choice and availability plus the ability to take advantage of lower prices. Craig Wolf, the WSWA (Wine & Spirits Wholesalers of America) head, said “We are supporting this legislation in an effort to ensure that policy disputes are resolved by local elected officials rather than unelected and unaccountable federal judges.” Nope, don’t want those unaccountable judges deciding the law…why…well could it be that judges don’t need big contributions from the WSWA for their campaigns like legislators do?
A November 2010 article by Reuter news revealed: “Also in 2008, during the election cycle, the National Beer Wholesalers Association (NBWA) donated nearly $3 million to candidates for federal office. At the state level, the donations are even larger. Between 2000 and 2006, wholesalers contributed nearly $50 million to statewide campaigns, according to the Specialty Wine Retailers Association. In Texas, wholesalers spent more on campaign contributions in 2006 than every single labor union combined.
Those donations make sense. Wholesalers need politicians to keep the regulatory structure in place — their survival depends on it. But the three-tier structure is at direct odds with the Commerce Clause, the enumerated power that ensures free trade between the states. This Constitutional question was addressed, in part, by the 2005 Supreme Court case of Granholm v. Heald. in part because the case only dealt with direct wine sales.”
Last year, H.R. 5034 made it to the House Judiciary Committee headed by Rep. Conyers. With the shift in parties, the Judiciary Committee is headed by Rep. Lamar Smith, both Conyers and Smith are recipients of the generous wholesaler and distributor donations. Below is a paragraph from letter sent to the new Congress by beer and wine producer groups regarding last year’s hearings.
“At two House Judiciary Committee hearings held last year, House members pointed out that the bill had nothing to do with states’ rights to control underage drinking and alcohol abuse. House members and legal experts testified that the bill undermined important Constitutional and economic principles that normally guide regulation of commerce and ensure fair competition. Committee members and witnesses alike indicated that Congress was being asked to favor one segment of an industry at the expense of other industry members and American consumers.”
So you and I, just want to be able to order the great wines we love. Of course many small wineries rely on the ability to direct ship to you and their wine club members for survival. Even some large wineries likeV. Sattui Winery sell only at the winery or by direct shipping to their fans and club members. There is only so much shelf space in your local wine shop and wholesalers often give precious little support to small artisan winemakers when they can fill the space with well known brands that will sell without much work or consumer education.
What can we do? Get out those number 2 pencils and write your Congressman/woman. There are a few groups looking out for your wine rights that will keep you up to date and provide you with sample letters. Bacchus and Beery Wine Blog recommend he following sites to keep you informed on H.R.1161. Help us Stop H.R. 1161 today to Protect your Wine Rights!
Tom Wark’s Daily Fermentation Blog
What a great article—too bad it had to be written in the first place though. This is so scary, it’s hard to imagine how legislation like this could change things. Like you said, wineries depend on the direct to consumer sales to moderate the prices of the wine that makes it’s way to the shelves of stores. The access is what kills me. If I had to depend on my local supermarket, or even wine store, for my wine selection, I’d give up. I live in Vermont, most wine stores are carbon copies of each other stocking nothing the crap offered in 500,000 case lots. Keep up the good work.
VERY COOL………………………………………KEEP UP THE GOOD WORK.