• Congress is on break for the Thanksgiving holiday and will return the week of December 2. Much of the previous two-week work period was dominated by impeachment hearings, but Congress did pass a stopgap measure to keep the federal government open through December 20. 2019 House Calendar (pdf)
• Fall ABL Board Meeting…ABL held a successful Board of Directors meeting on October 21-23 in Washington, DC. In addition to carrying out association business, members met with legislators on Capitol Hill and let them know about important issues to beverage licensees. The board heard from guest speakers, including Chris Swonger, President and CEO of the Distilled Spirits Council of the U.S. (DISCUS) who discussed industry and policy issues. The Board also heard from Jo Moak, Senior Vice President & General Counsel and Jake Hegeman, Assistant General Counsel & Vice President, Legal and Regulatory Affairs, both from the Wine & Spirits Wholesalers of America.
• 2020 ABL Annual Meeting…The 2020 ABL Annual Meeting will be held in New Orleans, LA on March 29-30, 2020 at the Hilton New Orleans – St. Charles Ave. The meeting program will examine the key issues of the day facing independent beverage retailers including what can be expected in the wake of the Tennessee Wine & Spirits Supreme Court case; regulatory and legislative developments in states; the evolving cannabis market other important topics. Additional information – including registration and room rates, speakers, schedules, and hospitality events – can be found at www.ablusa.org.
• Impaired Driving…On October 16, Sens. Tom Udall (D-NM) and Rick Scott (R-FL) introduced the Reduce Impaired Driving for Everyone (RIDE) Act of 2019 (S.2604). This is viewed by its proponents as an extension of the 2015 ROADS SAFE Act, which included research funding for the Driver Alcohol Detection System for Safety (DADSS). Under the current law, DADSS technology must be set at 0.08% BAC when implemented. The RIDE Act would allow for the redirection of funding to other, more privacy-invasive anti-drunk driving technology with a government mandate that it be installed in all new cars but no requirement that it be set at .08% BAC. ABL is working to oppose legislation that would lead to federal mandates on states to impose .05 BAC (or lower) requirements for drunk driving.
• Alcohol-Impaired Driving Fatalities Down 3.6% in 2018…Alcohol-impaired-driving fatalities decreased by 3.6 percent (397 fewer deaths than in 2017) accounting for 29 percent of 2018 overall fatalities, according to crash fatality data released on October 22 by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). This 29 percent of overall fatalities is the lowest percentage since 1982, when NHTSA started reporting alcohol data. An alcohol impaired-driving fatality is defined as a fatality in a crash involving a driver or motorcycle rider (operator) with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .08 grams per deciliter (g/dL) or greater. Overall in 2018, there was a 2.4 percent decline in total traffic fatalities – dropping to 36,560 deaths from 37,473 in 2017 – with the fatality rate per 100 million vehicle miles traveled decreasing by 3.4 percent; from 1.17 in 2017 to 1.13 in 2018, the lowest fatality rate since 2014. NHTSA Research Overview; NHTSA Press Release
• Postal Reform…On October 2, ABL sent a second joint industry letter to Capitol Hill offices in opposition to H.R. 2517, the USPS Shipping Equity Act. Bill sponsor Rep. Jackie Speier (D-CA) has recently increased her efforts in soliciting cosponsors. According to a press release from Rep. Speier’s office, the bill would “allow USPS to ship alcoholic beverages directly from licensed producers and retailers to consumers over the age of 21, in accordance with state and local shipping regulations.” In addition to ABL, the industry letter was signed by the American Distilled Spirits Association, the National Beer Wholesalers Association, and the Wine & Spirits Wholesalers of America, making it a full three-tier effort.
• Music Licensing…On November 8, the MIC Coalition submitted comment in response to the U.S. Copyright Office’s Notice of Inquiry on Music Modernization Act Blanket License Implementation Regulations. The comment states:
◦ “Although it would not solve all the issues in this space, a comprehensive musical works database would provide needed transparency and be a significant step in the right direction. As the MMA’s statutory text and legislative history indicates, and as the additional background discussed above illustrates, a musical works database is long overdue, and half measures will not solve this issue.”
• “Standard of Fill” Comments…In late October, ABL filed comments with the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) as it considers proposed rules that would eliminate all standard of fill guidelines for wine and spirits containers. ABL recommended “that no changes be made to current ‘standard of fill’ requirements” for retailers “would invariably be faced with a multitude of new…packaging and would need to devote time and resources to integrate those packages into their stores, bars and taverns.”
• Trade & Tariffs…In October, ABL joined nine other alcohol industry trade associations representing all three tiers of the beer, wine and spirits industry in calling for an end to tariffs on EU distilled spirits and wine following the United States decision to impose tariffs of 25 percent on imports of Single Malt Scotch Whisky, Single Malt Irish Whiskey from Northern Ireland, liqueurs and cordials, and wine from certain European Union countries.
• Main Street Privacy Coalition Letter…On November 21, ABL joined 15 other trade associations representing the Main Street Privacy Coalition on a letter to Senate Committee leaders laying out six principles for comprehensive federal privacy legislation. The principles are: a Comprehensive and Uniform Federal Standard; Transparency for Consumers; Preserve Customer Services and Benefits; Responsibility for Own Conduct; Statutory Obligations for All; and No Exemptions.
• House Committee Approves Decriminalization Bill…The House Judiciary Committee took the first step to legalizing cannabis on November 20 when it approved the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement (MORE) Act of 2019 (H.R. 3884) that would decriminalize cannabis and eliminate it from a list of federally controlled substances. The measure — which the committee approved 24-10 with the support of two Republicans — would also impose a 5% tax on sales and use the proceeds to support cannabis businesses and communities affected by the war on drugs.
• Sarasota Wine Market v. Schmitt (8th Circuit)…ABL and the Wine & Spirits Wholesalers of America submitted an amicus curiae brief in November supporting the state of Missouri in the 8th Circuit case Sarasota Wine Market v. Schmitt. The plaintiffs have challenged Missouri statutes that permit in-state retailers to sell and deliver directly to consumers’ homes but withhold the same privilege to out-of-state retailers. ABL has a long history of participating as an amici in Constitutional alcohol law cases at the appellate level across the country and supporting states’ rights under the 21st Amendment.
• Lebamoff v. O’Connell (Northern District of Illinois)…Formerly Lebamoff v. Rauner, briefing in this case in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois took place in September and October. The case centers on an Indiana retailer’s complaint concerning Illinois law that prevents out-of-state wine retailers from shipping wine directly to Illinois consumers. The case was previously dismissed by the District Court, appealed to the 7th Circuit Court, and then remanded back to the District Court.