May 20th, 2010
Crush The “CARE” Bill
This is a guest post by Jane Staley Boaz. Jane is a food and wine writer in Cincinnati. Her website is jsboaz.com and her newsletter, A Cook’s Chronicle, can be found at that site.
Just five years ago this month, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down state laws that ban out-of-state wineries from shipping wine directly to its citizens if the state permits intra-state shipping. (Granholm v. Heald, 2005.) But a well reasoned ruling from the highest court in the land won’t stop some in Congress from attempting to limit consumer choice and personal freedom.
Representatives from both parties have introduced House Bill 5034 which would grant states discriminatory powers in violation of the Commerce Clause. The proposed law would allow a state to ban out-of-state wineries from shipping their juice directly to consumers within that state— even if the state allows wineries within its boundaries to ship to consumers.
The disingenuous arguments for the ban are no different than those rejected by the Supreme Court five years ago. Supporters of the measure cite a duty to protect citizens from themselves. Get this- the bill is commonly known as the “Comprehensive Alcohol Regulatory Effectiveness Act of 2010,” i.e. the CARE Bill.
CARE? Lawmakers should care more about protecting individual rights, not eliminating consumer choice. Our elected officials should never consider pulling the Constitutional rug out from under legitimate, mostly small, business owners who wish to serve customers beyond the boundaries of their home states. Interestingly, Congressional sponsors of CARE declare that they introduced the Bill in order to control alcoholism and under-age drinking. Protecting tax revenue, they say, is a secondary goal. These claims are gibberish.
The addicted have many avenues for obtaining alcohol and are very unlikely to place orders for a specific Pinot Noir from an Oregon winery days or even weeks before it can be delivered. And how many juveniles reach out by phone or the Internet to order wine with their credit cards? If the sponsors are really motivated by their inner-nanny, why don’t they object to direct shipments from within a state? Wouldn’t intra-state shipments pose the same risks as interstate shipments? The only plausible reason to criminalize interstate shipments is preservation of the three-tier distribution system that requires wholesalers and distributors to serve as middlemen in wine transactions.
The unstated but obvious anti-consumer motivation for the CARE Bill is the fear of eliminating wholesalers’ financial stake in wine transactions. This rationale is not only self-serving, it is unfounded. Whether for the ambiance of a boutique shop, the wide array of discounted wines in the mega stores, or the expert advice available in all, most wine consumers enjoy perusing the shelves of local wine merchants. Most wine drinkers will forever shop and purchase their wine from neighborhood and regional retailers who participate in the three-tier system. However, if occasionally introduced to a label not available locally, the freedom to order directly from the winery seems a natural right. In fact, the Commerce Clause assures everyone, wine enthusiasts included, that there will be no discriminatory impediments to commercial transactions based on state boundaries.
Not-so-well-meaning members of Congress are attempting to stifle consumer freedom by promoting the false premise of the CARE Bill. I raise a glass to those in Congress who recognize their duty to protect individual liberties and choice. Cheers to those who will honor the Constitution and crush this bill.
An organization called Free The Grapes makes it easy for you to share your opinion with your representative in Congress. Just click the following link: www.freethegrapes.org.