Washington DC, USA - House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., is championing her home state’s wine industry in an effort to defeat bill that would give states greater control over how Alcohol is distributed. The move is causing a battle on Capitol Hill as California winemakers are pitted against beer wholesalers and distributors. Pelosi and her wine caucus is working to stop the Comprehensive Alcohol Regulatory Effectiveness and by doing so, open the flood gate of out-of-state alcohol distribution via direct shipment.
Direct shipments of alcohol cut out the distributors and middlemen, allowing wineries to sell straight to customers who may have visited in person or browsed via the Internet. Wineries, in particular, have considered direct shipping across state lines a retail boon.
Many states enacted laws that either prohibited direct shipping or severely restricted it. “This legislation is urgently needed to help states defend against lawsuits that are motivated by economic gain … and are not in the best interest of the health, safety and welfare of the public,” Nida Samona, the chairwoman of the Michigan Liquor Control Commission, told a House panel recently. (To read Nida Samona's Testimony before the House CLICK HERE.)
The fight pits One hundred and seven lawmakers, nearly one-fourth of the House of Representatives, support legislation that would make it easier for states to hinder direct shipments of alcohol.
After a protracted legal campaign, the Supreme Court in the case called Granholm v. Heald struck down laws that banned out-of-state direct shipments while permitting those from in-state wineries. The court concluded that the state laws violated the Constitution’s Commerce Clause, which prohibits states from erecting barriers against one another.
Enter the Comprehensive Alcohol Regulatory Effectiveness Act. As introduced April 15, the legislation significantly raises the legal hurdles for a successful challenge to a state’s direct wine-shipment restriction. The bill declares that a state’s alcohol control law “shall be upheld” unless the challengers can prove, essentially, that the law serves no purpose.
The proposed law would allow Michigan to spend less money on fighting lawsuits, and more on enforcing existing alcohol and sales tax laws, Samona says. “There is a lot of confusion out there,” she said. “Frankly, the wine industry likes that. Confusion gives us less ability to regulate.”
The challengers, for instance, would have to show that the alcohol control law has “no effect” on stopping underage drinking or the establishment of an “orderly” alcohol market. The state laws would have the “strong presumption of validity” under the bill.
Craig Purser, president of the National Beer Wholesalers Association, agrees with Samona. Pursher says, "With (the bill), Congress is taking an important step toward ending the erosion of the states' ability to regulate alcohol.”
“It’s definitely helped, there’s no question about it,” Patrick Campbell, the owner of Laurel Glen Winery in California's Sonoma County, said Friday. “The fact that you can ship direct to some markets creates an opening, and that scares the hell out of the distributors.”
The bill’s opponents say it would benefit booze distributors at the expense of wineries and consumers.
Pelosi and other members of the wine caucus remain diligent to stop any legislation that would take shape in stopping direct shipment of alcohol.
Ronia Halibu, board member of Merchants of Michigan a national trade group of retailers in Michigan say the legislation is needed for a number of reasons. “Direct shipment with tobacco was once allowed and the abuse of minors ordering tobacco skyrocketed. The same will occur with alcohol. States need to be better able to control how alcohol is distributed, otherwise we will see more abuse, more drunk drivers on the road, and more families hurt. My message to Pelosi is that she should be ashamed of herself for putting money ahead of the safety of families and State rights.”
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi was caught in the past for ushering legislation through congress increasing the minimum wage but, exempting a major tuna company located in her district.
At the time, the Washington Post reported the House voted to raise the minimum wage from $5.15 to $7.25 per hour and that the bill also extends for the first time the federal minimum wage to the U.S. territory of the Northern Mariana Islands. However, it exempts American Samoa, another Pacific island territory that would become the only U.S. territory not subject to federal minimum-wage laws.
One of the biggest opponents of the federal minimum wage in Samoa was StarKist Tuna, which owns one of the two packing plants that together employ more than 5,000 Samoans, or nearly 75 percent of the island's work force. StarKist's parent company, Del Monte Corp., has headquarters in San Francisco, which is represented by Mrs. Pelosi.
Halibu sights that Mrs. Pelosi campaigned heavily on promises of honest government. "Now we find out that Pelosi and her cronies have been secretly stepping over State rights to shoot down the Bill that protects Michigan families just like the exempting of hometown companies from minimum wage. This is exactly the hypocrisy and double talk Americans despise from politicians. I guess incumbents feel they have been there long enough and have enough favors owed to them that they can shirk their responsibility of looking out for the American people."
Pelosi also owns a vineyard in her home state of Californial.