Proposed bill threatens direct shipping by wineries
Washington State’s wine industry has banded together in opposition.
Proposed legislation recently introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives has stirred up the nation’s wine industry, causing a flurry of grassroots activity to thwart the bill. H.R. 3054, known as the Comprehensive Alcohol Regulatory Effectiveness Act, was sponsored by Representatives Bill Delahunt, D-Maine, Howard Coble, R-North Carolina, Mike Quigley, D-Illinois, and Jason Chaffetz, R-Utha, and deals with state authority to regulate alcohol and would allow states to enact discriminatory interstate commerce laws that could prohibit wine shipments from out-of-state wineries to consumers.
Washington State’s wine industry, in banding together in their opposition, sent a letter on April 26 jointly signed by leaders of the Washington Wine Commission, Washington Wine Institute, and Washington Association of Wine Grape Growers. The letter, sent to Norman Dicks, Washington State congressman, said “States currently utilize their very broad authority to regulate the sale of wine, beer, and spirits. This authority has been upheld by courts and new legislation is not necessary to help states accomplish their legitimate regulatory goals.” It further spells out the potential doom for Washington wineries:
• Reverses the progress that’s been made that now allows wine producers to sell directly to consumers in other states, and discourages other states from following Washington’s lead in modernizing wine laws.
• Causes financial devastation to small Washington wineries that rely on self-distribution and direct shipping to get their product to market.
• Significantly increases the cost and labor associated with complying with separate state regulations that deal with permitting, wine labeling, and advertising (all of which are managed federally by the Department of Treasury Tax and Trade Bureau and the Federal Trade Commission).
• Reduces choice for consumers who want to purchase wines that may not be distributed in their state.
WineAmerica, the National Association of American Wineries, along with many other wine industry groups, is opposed to the bill and is actively lobbying to defeat it. In support is the National Beer Wholesalers Association, who say the legislation would address recent challenges to the nation’s three-tier system of alcohol distribution and litigation against states regarding wine shipments and interstate commerce laws. H.R. 3054 has been referred to the House Judiciary Committee.