Tuesday, August 24, 2010

It's all electronic these days

received by email, of course.

Dear Dr. XX

Thank you for writing to express your opposition to H.R. 5034, the "Comprehensive Alcohol Regulatory Effectiveness Act."  I appreciate hearing from you and welcome the opportunity to respond.

Congress is expressly granted the power under the Constitution to enact federal laws that supersede state laws.  While sometimes it is necessary to preempt state law for the sake of uniformity, Congress should only do so with careful consideration of the effects on state laws and protection of consumers.  With these goals in mind, Congress has long sought to ensure that states can regulate the sale of alcoholic beverages consistent with their public policy but cannot discriminate against out-of-state shippers.  In the 2005 case of Granholm v. Heald, the Supreme Court held that state schemes that allow in-state, but not out-of-state, wineries to make direct sales to consumers discriminate against interstate commerce and unconstitutionally limit direct-sale shipments. 

I have long supported the ability of wineries to ship directly to consumers.  Direct shipping enhances consumer choice and can be an important market for small, niche wineries – many of which are located in California.

On April 15, 2010, Representative Bill Delahunt (D-MA) introduced H.R. 5034, the "Comprehensive Alcohol Regulatory Effectiveness Act."  This legislation would declare that it is the policy of Congress that each State or territory shall have the primary authority to regulate alcoholic beverages and that state alcohol regulations shall be accorded a strong presumption of validity when they are challenged in court.  I understand your concern that this bill could allow states to discriminate against or otherwise limit direct-to-consumer shipments from local wineries in California to out-of-state customers. 

H.R. 5034 has been referred to the House Committee on the Judiciary, and companion legislation has not been introduced in the Senate.  Please be assured that I will keep your concerns in mind should this bill or related legislation be considered by the Senate

Again, thank you for writing.  I hope you will continue to keep in touch with me on issues of importance to you.  If you should have any further questions or comments, please do not hesitate to contact my office in Washington, D.C. at (202) 224-3841.  Best regards.

Sincerely yours,
 Dianne Feinstein
         United States Senator

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Free the grapes!

As a responsible, pragmatic, and patriotic wine, beer, and spirits drinker of more than 20 years, I urge you to OPPOSE HR 5034.  HR 5034 serves only the interests of beer wholesalers and could overturn legal, regulated winery-to-consumer shipping working successfully in 37 states.

Just like many other wine consumers, I enjoy wine purchased from small family growers and vintners and shipped to me directly.  If I and many others didn't have this option of direct shipment, then we wouldn't be able to purchase those wines, since smaller wineries often have production too low to interest major wholesaler distribution networks.  HR 5034 could restrict the ability of small wineries to ship direct and therefore threatens the livelihood of small family growers and vintners, restricts consumer choice, and irresponsibly places state laws supporting wine, beer and spirits wholesaler middlemen beyond the reach of the Commerce Clause of the U.S. Constitution.

Please let me know how you intend to vote on this important consumer rights issue.

Free the Grapes