HR 5034: Who do you want to regulate your booze? An excellent analysis

on 19/11/10 at 9:51 am

Booze News

This article was originally posted in April. You can also learn more here.

The past week has seen a great deal of conversation—panic really—in the wine corner of the blogosphere about HR 5034. “Call your Congress-critter,” you are told, “or the wine wholesalers will eat your children!”

What has been lacking is an analysis of HR 5034, a discussion of the history that lead to it, its effect if passed, and whether the Supreme Court is likely to find it constitutional. As Palate Press’s resident wine-blogging lawyer,* I will attempt to fill in those blanks. This is very rough analysis; I am far from a constitutional scholar on these issues, and what I’ve laid out here is subject to revision as I give my conclusions second- (and third-) thought, and as people wiser than I add their comments. And just to be safe, until I reach a conclusion, I will keep my children safely locked in their rooms.

The bill’s backers argue the legislation is necessary to protect a State’s ability to collect taxes, and to prevent minors from getting their hands on alcohol. The bill’s opponents argue that it is really intended to overturn a Supreme Court decision limiting States’ regulatory powers, giving power to States to bar importation of wine—something they are likely to do in response to pressure from the politically powerful alcohol wholesale industry.

What exactly is HR 5034? It is a proposed bill presently before the House Committee on the Judiciary. It says…

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