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April 27, 2010
WSWA President Urges Congress to Ignore the Hyperbole and Misinformation, Support States' Rights and Curb Deregulation of Alcohol by Litigation

Press Release: Washington, D.C.—Wine & Spirits Wholesalers of America President Craig Wolf urged Congress today to support H.R. 5034, “The Comprehensive Alcohol Regulatory Effectiveness Act” (CARE Act) and called on members of Congress to ignore inflammatory rhetoric which falsely characterizes the plain language, intent and purpose of the legislation.

“Congress has been called upon by 40 state attorneys general to ‘strongly support legislation that will bring to a stop the erosion of state alcohol laws by reinforcing the states’ ability to regulate alcohol as it sees fit,’”[1] Wolf said. “The CARE Act is narrowly designed to do just that—to allow states to effectively address what the attorneys general call ‘the growing threat facing our states from unprecedented legal challenges that seek to eliminate our ability to regulate alcohol.’”[2]

Wolf also encouraged members of Congress to support state-based regulation of alcohol and look beyond the mischaracterizations and misinformation being circulated about the CARE Act. “There’s a lot of high-strung rhetoric being thrown around out there. Let’s be clear about the CARE Act, and what it does, and does not do.”

Wolf stressed that:

• The CARE Act does not overturn state laws allowing the direct shipment of wine by wineries or retailers. No provision of the CARE Act will change the laws on the books that allow for direct shipment of wines from wineries or retailers. Nor is there any provision in the bill that serves to restrict such legal shipments. In fact, direct shipping laws are afforded more protection from legal challenge under the CARE Act because the burden of proof is now on the entity challenging the law.

• The CARE Act does not favor any segment or tier of the industry. No language in the CARE Act refers to distillers, brewers, vintners, wholesalers or retailers. Rather, the language serves to reaffirm the primary authority of the states to regulate beverage alcohol pursuant to their powers granted by the Congress and the 21st Amendment.

• The CARE Act does not expand state legislative or regulatory authority into what is currently and appropriately federal jurisdiction—and vice versa. The CARE Act does not alter the authority granted by Congress to federal agencies such as the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB), Federal Trade Commission (FTC), Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to regulate alcohol in such areas as labeling, advertising and food safety.

• The CARE Act does place the burden in litigation where it should be: on the plaintiff challenging a state alcohol law. States currently face a difficult and improper burden in exercising their core powers when defending valid state beverage alcohol laws in court. Forty state attorneys general have asked for Congress’ help to end such litigation’s “chilling effect on states’ ability and willingness to defend their beverage alcohol laws.”[3]

• The CARE Act does take the guesswork away from the courts and places policy-making decisions where they should be: in state legislatures. As directed by the 21st Amendment, it is the responsibility of state legislatures to set state alcohol beverage policy. This legislation reaffirms that Congress and the Constitution have explicitly granted states this responsibility.
“America’s family-owned wine and spirits wholesalers strongly support the goals of the CARE Act: reinforcing the states’ ability to effectively regulate alcohol, protecting the public interest and ensuring the continuity and stability of the safest and most consumer-friendly system of alcohol distribution in the world,” Wolf concluded.

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