Battle Over Booze Regulations Escalates

Posted June 23, 2010 at 3:20pm

Alcohol suppliers are ramping up their lobbying effort against legislation that calls for state-based alcohol regulation and makes it tougher to file legal challenges to states’ distribution laws. The Distilled Spirits Council of the United States, Beer Institute, Wine America, the Brewers Association and the Wine Institute sent a letter Wednesday to the entire House opposing the bill.

“The current system of alcohol beverage regulation in the U.S. provides a proven and effective balance between states and the federal government that allows for local flexibility while providing necessary consistency and fairness on a national basis,” the trade groups wrote. “The National Beer Wholesalers Association and the Wine & Spirits Wholesalers of America seek to dramatically alter the current system of alcohol regulation. … NBWA and WSWA want to put brewers, wineries, distillers and retailers at a competitive disadvantage; allow states to unfairly and arbitrarily enact protectionist laws against out-of-state beer, wine and spirits producers; and effectively eliminate federal oversight of alcohol.”

The letter comes in advance of a House Judiciary Committee hearing tentatively set for July 14, according to a DISCUS spokesman.

The NBWA and WSWA have been leading the charge to find co-sponsors for the bill, which was introduced in April by Rep. Bill Delahunt (D-Mass.). So far, the bill has 122 co-sponsors. It is in response to a 5-year-old Supreme Court ruling, which held that states had the primary responsibility for regulating alcohol distribution but that they could not discriminate against out-of-state producers.

The NBWA did not immediately respond to a request for comment.