House Resolution 5034, introduced by the National Beer Wholesalers Association (NBWA), is supposed to be heard in June before the Judiciary Committee, chaired by Michigan’s John Conyers. If you don’t know, Michigan was the losing plaintiff in Granholm v. Heald, the 2005 case that liberalized wine shipments, and the NBWA was one of Rep. Conyers’ top five donors in the last two elections.
HR 5034 would exempt anti-competitive and discriminatory state alcohol beverage laws from most federal review, including capacity cap laws. In other words, states could freely write laws making it difficult or impossible for consumers to get direct shipments of wine from wineries within and outside their state.
If it passed, HR 5034 would be a complete reversal of the Granholm Supreme Court decision, that emphasized: “The 21st Amendment did not give States the authority to pass nonuniform laws in order to discriminate against out-of-state goods, a privilege they had not enjoyed at any earlier time.”
According to most news sources, the NBWA and the Wine and Spirit Wholesalers Association, WSWA, are lobbying aggressively for the bill on Capitol Hill. In fact, the WSWA took out a print ad on May 12 in Politico, a newspaper/website read by DC legislators and staffers, encouraging legislators to co-sponsor HR 5034.
My view? Wholesalers and the 3-tier system are important, and represent many jobs and a system that works well for many producers. BUT-it doesn’t work well for many others, and for some, not at all. Wineries should have the right to sell direct to consumers if they choose, and consumers of legal age should have an unfettered right to buy wine from any producer, anywhere. Anything else is, well, un-American if you ask this Marine.
For a backgrounder on the bill, go here. For a shortcut to send your legislator an email on the issue, go here.