CARE Act Takes a Big Step Forward

ALEXANDRIA, VA – NBWA is pleased that the House Judiciary Committee held a hearing today on H.R. 5034, the Comprehensive Alcohol Regulatory Effectiveness (CARE) Act of 2010, which was introduced on April 15, 2010, by Reps. Bill Delahunt (D-MA), Howard Coble (R-NC), Mike Quigley (D-IL) and Jason Chaffetz (R-UT). The CARE Act would clarify congressional intent that states have primary authority to regulate alcohol and assist the states in defending their alcohol laws from deregulatory litigation. Chairman Conyers said it well in his testimony which stated, “If the courts are not striking the appropriate balance, then it is appropriate for Congress to step in to ensure that legitimate state regulations are protected from unnecessary legal challenge.”

The hearing examined revised language offered by Rep. Delahunt in the form of a manager’s amendment. There was robust discussion about issues related to alcohol deregulation and the problems resulting from continuing litigation against the states. A number of members of Congress expressed their support for passing federal legislation that would preserve the important balance between effective state-based regulation and competition while mitigating the litigation threat facing states.


“Today’s hearing put a spotlight on the current threat to state alcohol laws, as Congress heard firsthand from those on the frontlines in the effort to effectively regulate alcohol and ensure that the public’s interest is protected,” said NBWA President Craig Purser. “Today’s witnesses presented an important contrast between law enforcement, state regulators, public health advocates and those private interests filing lawsuits against states.”


Three members of Congress: Rep. Bruce Braley (D-IA), Rep. Edolphus Towns (D-NY) and Rep. Gary Miller (R-CA) also testified in support of the legislation.


Referencing conflicting court rulings and the judicial confusion that exists about congressional intent regarding state alcohol laws, Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff – former co-chair of the National Association of Attorneys General Special Committee on Youth Access to Alcohol and Drugs – said, “The legal waters are muddier, not clearer.” In calling for passage of the bill, General Shurtleff also praised the 21st Amendment and state-based alcohol regulation as a “stunning success,” noting that the people of Salt Lake City feel differently about alcohol than the people of Detroit.


Michele Simon of the Marin Institute, an alcohol industry watchdog group, attested to the critical role that state regulation of alcohol plays in protecting public health.


Michigan Liquor Control Commission Chairperson Nida Samona testified that states are being forced to spend significant financial resources to clarify issues that should be clarified by legislation. “No responsible person believes that unfettered competition, the lowest price, and ubiquitous availability of alcohol are in the public interest,” her testimony stated. Yet, “state regulatory systems remain under siege.”


NBWA is encouraged by the widespread support for the continuation of the American system of state-based alcohol regulation, which balances the public’s interest in effective regulation with the consumer’s desire for choice and variety.


“NBWA strongly supports the proposed amended legislation, believes it will help states defend their laws and preserve effective state-based alcohol regulation and will continue to advocate aggressively for its passage,” Purser added.


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