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03.19.2011

Why Every Wine Lover Needs to Call Their Representative in Congress

stopHR1161.jpgLast year, one of the most anti-consumer pieces of legislation in years was introduced to the House of Representatives under the name HR5034: The Comprehensive Alcohol Regulatory Effectiveness act, or ironically, "CARE." I wrote last year about what a piece of shit masquerading as legislation this bill was, and was happy to see that it never made it to the floor of the house for a vote.

Well now thanks to a tool of a senator named Representative Jason Chaffetz, a Republican from Utah, it has been resurrected as HR1161, and the named changed to the Community Alcohol Regulatory Effectiveness act.

There is a reason that every winery and beer marketing, production, and sales association in the country, along with every consumer advocacy organization related to alcohol is against this legislation.

The bill is insidious in its simplicity. It would make it effectively impossible to challenge any state's laws about alcohol distribution or direct shipping by forcing the challenger to prove that any particular does not "advance a legitimate local purpose that cannot be adequately served by reasonable nondiscriminatory alternatives.''

In other words, as long as any state can prove that its laws, no matter how discriminatory, anti-competitive, or anti-consumer, do anything useful, like produce tax revenues or prevent children from buying alcohol, those laws cannot be overturned by a legal challenge by any party or any act of Congress.

Under their usual guise of trying to "protect the children" from an "epidemic of alcoholism" this bill, purportedly written by the liquor wholesalers lobby, effectively keeps the alcohol laws of this country an affair to be settled by state legislators and their wholesaler lobbyist friends.

As my friend Tom Wark puts it: "It's as though the wholesalers are admitting that without state-mandated welfare, they can't compete in a free market and they are willing to screw consumers, wineries, retailers, distillers, and brewers in order to keep their cushy, unearned, state-protected profits."

If you have ever ordered a bottle of wine by mail from a retailer or a winery, or if you simply believe that this most basic of transactions should be available to adults who want to do it, then you need to contact your congressional representative and tell them under no circumstances should they vote for HR1161.

Here's the easiest way you can locate and contact your representative.

Also you can join STOPHR1161 on Facebook and help spread the word that this bill will cripple consumer access to wine and give wholesalers an unfair advantage in the marketplace.

If you are a member of some wine, beer, or liquor industry association, make sure they are both telling their members about this dangerous piece of legislation, as well as making their voices heard in Washington.

Comments (14)

Greg Hirson wrote:
03.20.11 at 9:21 AM

Thanks Alder. I live in Mike Thompson's district, so I feel quite confident that my representative will do the right thing. I still wrote to him, however, to make sure he knows that the consumers in his district, as well as the producers, are against this bill. I hope others will do the same.

Lee Alderman wrote:
03.20.11 at 12:13 PM

I just wrote to Lynn Woolsey asking her not to support this bill. I recently tried to send a bottle of Port to a friend in New hamphsire as a birthday present only to discover I couldn't. These state laws blocking the shipment of wine seem quite idiotic to me. Thanks for sharing the info so we can take action.

John Skupny wrote:
03.20.11 at 4:19 PM

This is a the most stupid, expensive, misbegotten piece of legislation to hit the floor of congress in my 35 years in the wine business... You can buy a glock with an extended clip at a flee market without ID or background checks, but you can be busted if you carry a bottle of wine over state lines.... how does protectionism, cronyism and added goverment regulations create jobs...sad.

03.20.11 at 6:30 PM

Those agents of free market certainly vote against it when their paymasters dictate. Disgusting! Will post around. Thanks.

Jason Cohen wrote:
03.20.11 at 6:46 PM

You guys are missing the big picture. Kids these days aren't drinking beer or liquor or box wine: the only way they can get alcohol is by placing orders for hard-to-find, boutique wines over the Internet. This bill will finally put a stop to underage drinking.

Tara Poropat wrote:
03.21.11 at 6:10 AM

Thanks for the update...I will definitely pass this information on. Not only do I think most liquor laws in this country are antiquated and unconstitutional...but I also live in PA...which makes the situation all the more depressing!!

P. Ramos wrote:
03.21.11 at 9:00 AM

That was an awesome point Jason .Now you know why the waitning lists are all full at cult wineries. Damn kids!

03.21.11 at 10:48 AM

How many kids do you know that have the patience to order wine on the internet and then wait for days by the door for FED EX?

The real problem is that the wholesalers and distributors realize that companies like COSTCO and SAMS CLUB would rather buy winery direct.

Mark wrote:
03.21.11 at 12:25 PM

I think we're going to need a Supreme Court decision on these pretty soon, otherwise the distributors are going to get someone to sponsor something similar at the beginning of each session of Congress. Ugh.

I don't fault them for trying, the world is changing state by state.

03.21.11 at 1:40 PM

Thanks for calling this to our attention. I just sent the following to Congressman Lamar Smith of Texas -

Dear Congressman Smith:

I oppose HR 1161, and I hope you do as well.

If this bill became law, it would make it much harder for legal brewers, vintners, distillers and importers to get their products to market. It protects established monopoly interests against competition on price, quality, service, ...and diversity. It exempts anti-competitive and discriminatory laws from most federal review. It is bad law, pushed by a narrow entrenched interest for their own gain, at cost to everyone else, especially to small wineyards.

There is a lot of wonderful small wine and small beer producers here in Washington. It is one of the things that makes Washington the great place it is. They would all be harmed if this bill became law.

I would like to know your position on this bill.

Earline Ahonima wrote:
03.22.11 at 12:01 PM

I just telephoned Congresswoman Pelosi's office in San Francisco. I spoke to a woman who seemed quite engaged and curious about this bill. I explained it to her and she said that she would pass on the message.

Stef wrote:
03.23.11 at 5:24 PM

Look, if kids want to get wine or beer they'll do what everybody here in SoCal did growing up, get their older brothers and sisters to buy it for them. I have clear visions of this is high school.

Matt P. wrote:
03.29.11 at 8:23 PM

Two key words are Federalism and Police Powers. If you believe in federalism, this law shouldn't irk you. I like wine as much as the next guy, but DC is out of control.

Matt P. wrote:
03.29.11 at 9:22 PM

I suppose I could be a little more clear for you folks.

I believe that the biggest impediment to having more than two political parties is our failure as a nation to respect our federalist roots. The original concept was that the states would act as individual "think tanks" to generate ideas. The idea was that the best ideas would rise to the top and be copied by the laggard states. One wouldn't necessarily have to put all their eggs in one presidential basket - laws and regulations would be sourced locally.

Of course, the downside to my belief is that if you want good wine, you might not want to live in Utah.

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