Over the weekend I started getting the email notices about H.R. 5034.
It is a short bill. But what it lacks in size it makes up for in the potential to further entrench the power of private wine, beer and liquor distributorships. This is being done under the guise of eliminating litigation that might potentially open up the wine, beer and liquor markets to increased competition. Egads! The horror! After decades of being told that dereguation is good, now that some of the goodness of it might trickle down to the common man, it must be eliminated. Like the plague. If this bill is passed, advocacy groups such as Marylanders for Better Wine and Beer Laws, Free The Grapes, The Specialty Wine Retailers Association and the Illinois Wine Consumers Coalition attempts’ to allow you to purchase the wine of your choice will be forced to prove that the regulation in question:
“has no effect on the promotion of temperance, the establishment or maintenance of orderly alcoholic beverage markets, the collection of alcoholic beverage taxes, the structure of the state alcoholic beverage distribution system, or the restriction of access to alcoholic beverages by those under the legal drinking age.”
Ahh. right. So we can’t improve our alcohol distribution system in our states because they achieve SOME of their goals? Certainly not the most progressive reason I have ever heard. But who do these regulations work for? Not the consumer who can only buy what the distributors allow them to chose from at the price that the distributor decides to sell it to them for. Not small wine shops which won’t be offered competitive prices because the big boys in the industry don’t have any incentive to deal with them.
Worse, the reasons given for this legislation have been ridiculous.
Expensive wine keeps our children safe from disease and alcoholism. The law would allow the States to avoid expensive litigation brought by advocacy groups. An open wine market would return us to the days of Tommy Guns and Al Capone because liquor is a “lawlessness unto itself”1.
Who are they kidding? The aim of this legislation is not to improve temperance (who said this should be the goal of the state?) and protect children but rather to insulate those individuals who control the distribution channels. The proof of this? The legislation is almost verbatim from a draft written by the National Beer Wholesalers Association. Are we really to suppose that they love my children more than I do? I don’t think so. But they do love the monopolistic powers granted them from the states.
If they manage to get their way with this legislation, you can be certain that the Distributors will not be content with State laws as they exist. Slowly but surely, you will find them working to make certain that their products are the only legal game in town.
The legislation has been introduced by Reps. Coble of NC (who’s number one contributor was the NBWA), Chaffetz of UT (also received donations from NBWA), Delahunt of MA (his PAC has received donations from various alcohol concerns) and unfortunately my own Congressman, Mike Quigley.
I have already called Congressman Quigley’s office in Washington and left a message with his Legislative Aide. To date, I have not recieved an answer back. And honestly, after the experiences that I had with the Illinois Wine Consumers Coalition, this doesn’t surprise me. I found that most of the politicians that I tried to speak to, even those, who like Rep. Quigley represent me, never had the courtesy to return a call or an explanation of their policy positions. Which leads me to speculate…. cynically.
If I ever hear back from the Congressman’s office, I will let you know what I learn. In the meantime, I urge you to contact you member of Congress and tell them that you oppose this legislation.
You can find the contact information here.
1. Duckworth v. Arkansas, 314 US 390 (1941) (I always try to make my point with 70 year old litigation… it makes your point seem so modern and relevant)