Dear MBBWL Members and Supporters of Direct Shipping to Maryland,
Just when you thought it was safe to hope, just when our efforts generated unprecedented state-wide support from all the stakeholders including wineries, retailers, grape growers, farmers, small businesses and chambers of commerce . . . and we could hope that 2011 was to be our vintage year . . . there looms a new menace! H.R. 5034 proposes a Federal law to extinguish our hope.
Recall that most of the 37 states and the District of Columbia were able to pass direct wine shipping laws because of the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2005 Granholm Decision, which required states to treat in-state and out-of-state wineries in the same manner. The Supreme Court cited the Constitution’s Commerce Clause, which regulates interstate commerce.
So, we have the Constitution on our side, right? Not if the National Beer Wholesaler’s Association (NBWA) get their bill passed. The NBWA drafted a bill submitted to the Judiciary Committee by Congressman Delahunt as H.R. 5034, which will invalidate or weaken portions of the Commerce Clause and give states increased powers over alcohol distribution. The main goal, they say, is to protect the three-tier system. Secondarily, it will solidify the wholesaler’s monopoly and reduce the availability of wine from America’s artisan wineries. They also mention under-age drinking and the need to protect states against frivolous lawsuits, but all you’ll see when you read the bill is a raw power grab by wholesalers. If H.R.5034 passes, it will mean the end of direct shipment of wine to many states and certainly will stymie our efforts in Maryland.
The March US House of Representatives hearing included testimony from only supporters of the three-tier system and those against alcohol abuse and under-age drinking. They also noted that since the Granholm Decision, there were many lawsuits to force states to follow the law. Somehow the NBWA has used this “frivolous lawsuit” fear – which is not cited in the Bill itself – to get the National Association of Attorneys General (NAAG) to write a letter of support. On March 29, the NAAG sent a letter of support signed by attorneys general from 38 states including Maryland.
The likelihood of H.R.5034 passing is not great. But the risk is that if it does somehow pass that we will all be set back to the pre-2005 era. We must act now to make sure the possibility is nada.
Usually the first step is to write to the Judiciary Committee members from your state. Alas, there are no Maryland representatives. So, we need to write to our US House of Representatives elected officials and tell our friends in other states to write to their committee members. Also, we must write to Maryland’s Attorney General, Douglas Gansler, who signed the letter of support and ask him to withdraw his signature.
Here are some links to better understand the issue and to help you craft your letters of concern:
1. Wine Spectator “An End to Direct Wine Shipping” http://www.winespectator.com/webfeature/show/id/42526
2. The text of H.R.5034: http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/query/z?c111:H.R.5034:
3. Fermentation: The Daily Wine Blog “Stop H.R.5034 – the Anti-Consumer Wine Bill”
4. The NAAG Sign-on Archive with the letter of support as the third bullet: http://www.naag.org/sign-on_archive.php
5. A roster of members of the Judiciary Committee: http://judiciary.house.gov/about/members.html
6. Douglas Gansler contact information: firstname.lastname@example.org, http://www.oag.state.md.us/contact.htm
Please act now to help us to assure a level playing field in 2011. The wholesalers want to strengthen their monopoly and assure a hostile environment for local wineries and wine consumers. H.R.5034 must be stopped.
Interim Executive Director
Marylanders for Better Beer & Wine Laws
4315 Underwood Road
Baltimore, MD 21218
Tel: (443) 254-8510