Alcohol Wholesalers Angle for Position in DC

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Does it taste good? Out-of-staters may never know unless they come to Angwin, California. (Credit: Myrow/KQED)

Heads up from the Wine Spectator. Last week, Congressman William Delahunt (D-Mass.) submitted a revised version of H.R. 5034, the Comprehensive Alcohol Regulatory Effectiveness (CARE) Act. The House Judiciary Committee has scheduled a public hearing on the bill for September 29th.

If it gets to the floor of Congress for a vote, H.R. 5034 could pop a cork back into a bottle the courts have opened. The Supreme Court’s landmark Granholm decision in 2005 ruled states cannot discriminate between in- and out-of-state wineries in matters of direct-to-consumer wine shipping, arguing that the 21st Amendment (ended Prohibition + put states in charge of alcohol regulation), does not trump the Constitution’s Commerce Clause, (prevents states from restricting interstate trade).Alcohol wholesalers argue H.R. 5034 will prevent frivolous lawsuits and give states the tools to prevent alcoholism and underage drinking. Critics, which include many California wineries, distillers and breweries, retort the bill would allow wholesalers to effectively corner the market for interstate booze shipping.

Delahunt did remove a provision that would have made it almost impossible for parties to sue states over discriminatory alcohol regulations. But the Spectator reports the revision does not address the concerns of retailers. And among 37 states that permit direct shipping of wine from producers to consumers, only 13 permit retailers to do the same.

It could be this beverage delivers all bubbles with no bite. Even if the bill heads to the full House before the election in November, no companion bill has been introduced in the Senate...yet.

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About Rachael Myrow

Rachael Myrow hosts the California Report for KQED. Over 17 years in public radio, she's worked for Marketplace and KPCC, filed for NPR and The World, and developed a sizable tea collection that's become the envy of the KQED newsroom. She specializes in politics, economics and history in California - but for emotional balance, she also covers food and its relationship to health and happiness.

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