Last week, after I spoke out against NJ Assembly Majority Leader Joseph Cryan publicly dissing his own wine-buying constituents, I received quite a bit of feedback (comments and e-mail) about something I wasn’t talking about. Namely, not reporting from the battlefield of the wine shipping fracas taking place among the rolling hills of my home state, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania (one of – if not the – worst control states in our fair Union).
In response, I can offer two tidbits as potential justification:
1) Blogger Lew Bryson is doing a fine job of detailing all of the latest PLCB debacles and on-again/off-again satutus of PA’s move towards Privitization, and I’ve little to offer above-and-beyond Lew’s excellent and opinionated coverage. For a pertinent example, check out Lew’s tirade about the state’s failed automated wine kiosks – turns out the PLCB knew that the kiosks had little chance of succeeding before they deployed them (I had a similar view of their potential success published around the same time).
2) I’m anticipating the potential for a lot more insider coverage coming soon on the PLCB and the drama of the changing state of alcohol distribution in PA, since I’ve agreed to be on a focus group for a PLCB Wine Advisory Council member.
Yes, you read that correctly. I’ve been hand-picked by a member of the PLCB’s Eastern PA Regional Advisory Panel to join a cabinet/focus group, which has as one of its priorities advancing the pace of change to improve the currently (very) sad state of wine distribution affairs in the Commonwealth…
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I know that a lot of people like to jokingly poke fun at New Jersey from time to time (c’mon… admit it… they even had a NJ joke in Madagascar 2 and that was a kids flik), but do some people really think that NJ’s citizens are actually that dumb?
Apparently, some of them do – including Joseph Cryan, Assembly majority leader and representative of NJ’s 20th Legislative District. Whoops!
Tom Wark alerted me to this little ditty, an Opinion piece published in the Times of Trenton (that’s in NJ, for all you West Coast people) and written by Cryan, in which he attempts to justify a bill that he sponsored – one that basically doesn’t allow direct wine shipping in NJ. Cryan also goes on to lambast a separate bill that I’m assuming he opposed – one that does allow for direct shipment of wine to NJ consumers. Here’s an excerpt of Cryan’s OpEd:
“…in New Jersey, we have a three-tier distribution system in place to protect our great state’s citizens, children, safety and revenue. The system has worked since 1933, and we should not be bullied by out-of-state wineries that seek to destroy it. The three-tier system has led to 60,000 retail jobs in our state; if we were to allow direct shipping, those New Jersey jobs could all but disappear.”
Wow. So, let’s get this straight: according to Cryan, if they allow direct shipping in NJ, then they not only succumb to the “bullying” of out-of-state wineries, but will lose upwards of 60K jobs, will put the state’s children into rehab (supposedly they’re getting smashed on La Tache at, like, $3K/bottle?) and will miss out on an ungodly amount of revenue?
Save the children! Board the windows!! Annie, GET YER GUN!!!…
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I’ve officially had it with the Wine and Spirits Wholesalers of America and their unparalleled ability to continually flip the legislative bird to U.S. taxpayers and American wine consumers.
Their latest ploy has been the introduction of HR 1161 – called, strangely enough, the “CARE” act (for Community Alcohol Regulatory Effectiveness Act of 2011″) but what I’d more accurately describe as the “SYFBWETBORA” act (for “Screwing You From Behind Without Even The Benefit Of a Reach-Around act of 2011”) – is, simply put, a colossal waste of legislative and taxpayer time and energy that could be spent on things slightly more important, such as reducing our national debt, helping to end starvation, fixing healthcare, or…
It’s tough to put into words how asinine this legislation really is, but I will try… for the impatient, I would describe HR 1161 as being the kind of legislation I would expect to be written by severely retarded monkeys, in so much as it promises to deliver a similar amount of potential “benefit” for U.S. consumers and taxpayers.
HR 1161 would basically amount to “exempting state alcohol laws from review under the Commerce Clause of the Constitution.” Which would mean that state laws governing alcohol distribution – no matter how potentially unconstitutional, anti-consumer, pro-monopoly they are currently – couldn’t be challenged in court.
How bad is that? It’s bad enough that the National Association of Attorneys General have sent letters indicating that they do not support the bill. Basically, the case for HR 1161 being unconstitutional seems to be quite strong – which strongly suggests that a lot of time is being wasted in drafting, promoting, fighting, and discussing it, because it’s (probably… hopefully!) unlikely to pass.
As a commercial body, the Wine and Spirits Wholesalers of America asking to be protected from Constitutional commerce law is sort of like the U.S. Military asking to be exempted from ever having any of its members be tried for war crimes under any circumstances – we don’t expect that kind of behavior, but the threat of legislation and subsequent legal action at least is a deterrent.
If you want to learn (much) more about how bad HR 1161 really is, check out the on-going coverage of the details over at Tom Wark’s Fermentation blog. What I will leave you with is this: the only logical conclusion I’ve been able to come to when thinking about why on our wine-lovin’-Earth any member of the U.S. legislative system would be in support of HR 1161 is that they are firmly entrenched in the pockets of the Wine and Spirits Wholesalers of America.
And we know what we should do with politicians who are too firmly entrenched in the pockets of any big business group:
VOTE THEM OUT.
You can get started by joining up the movement against HR 1161 on Facebook, and by writing your legislative reps to let them know that you’ll be voting for their resignations if they support the bill.