When it comes to wine, people from Michigan talk dry and drink sweet and when it comes to politics, we talk blue and vote red.
Recently, Michigan wine and politics entered the demolition derby again, this time to undermine Granholm v. Heald, a Supreme Court decision ruling that direct-to-consumer shipping that discriminated between in-state and out-of-state wineries was unconstitutional.
Bear with me here, and try to stay awake. In writing that majority decision in 2005, Justice Anthony Kennedy said:
“This power [to regulate wine sales] does not allow states to ban, or severely limit, the direct shipping of wine while simultaneously authorizing direct shipment by in-state producers. If a state chooses to allow direct shipment of wine, it must do so on evenhanded terms. Without demonstrating the need for discrimination, New York and Michigan have enacted regulations that disadvantage out-of-state wine producers. Under our Commerce Clause jurisprudence, these regulations cannot stand.”
On Jan. 9, 2017, Michigan Governor Rick Snyder (R) signed a law that prohibits out-of-state retailers from shipping to Michigan consumers while making it easier for in-state retailers to ship to Michigan consumers.
Now, I’m no lawyer—and if I was, I’d like to think I’d be spending more time making psilocybin legal and getting White Boy Rick (the good, drug dealing one) out of jail and putting White Boy Rick (the bad, Lansing-living one) in jail—but I didn’t think state law could overrule federal law. Isn’t there a Supremacy Clause in the Constitution, and didn’t Judge Kennedy call laws like Snyder signed ‘unconstitutional’?
Or, does the argument go, the SCOTUS ruling covered only individual wineries, not retailers?
Problem with that interpretation would be that Siesta Village Market, LLC et al v. Granholm (2008) found that a retailer ban was also discriminatory and thus violated the Constitution’s dormant Commerce Clause.
In other words, Itsy Bitsy Snyder listened to a federal judge telling him that Senate Bill 1088 was unconstitutional and snickered ‘…and??’ as he signed it anyway.
No, not Saul the Lawyer, Saul the King of Judah who decimated the Moabites, Ammonites and Edomites:
Time to go Old Testament on the Snyderites.
Keep Your Lobbies Off of My Hobbies
One thing seems clear: The law benefits Michigan retailers, and to nobody’s great surprise, guess who helped put Snyder in office? Why, the Michigan Wine and Beer Wholesalers Association.
And guess what the Michigan Wine and Beer Wholesalers Association’s response to the legislation was?
According to Association President Spencer Nevins (a name even more sniveling than Snyder’s):
“Michigan residents will have even more choices under this new law. Consumers can purchase wine from a Michigan retailer and have it shipped to their home, they can purchase wine through an app and have it delivered and they can have wine shipped direct from any winery in the country. It’s also worth noting that the vast majority of wine illegally shipped into Michigan by retailers is already available through an in-state retailer.”
I have no idea if all that is true or not—although they couldn’t print it in Wine Spectator if it wasn’t, right?—but I do have an idea how the Constitution works: When a ruling covers all retailer shipments (Nevins gratuitously tosses in ‘illegal’, as though that’s the point), phrases like ‘the vast majority’ don’t cut it.
For example, suppose I tried to pass a law that says you can practice the vast majority of religions, but not Islam?
The quid pro quo of Snyder’s political supporters now being able to put more pro quids into their coffers based on this ruling stinks like a cheap bottle of Paw Paw plonk left open on Snyder’s desk.
Turning From Water to Wine and Screwing Up Both
To level set, this is the same Governor Snyder who recently told Detroit Free Press reporter Paul Egan that he has ‘no reason to be concerned’ that Attorney General Bill Schuette will bring criminal charges against him in connection with the Flint drinking water crisis, and most of the $3.5 million he is spending on outside criminal legal defense fees is to pay for work on turning over documents to investigators.
To further level set, this is the same Attorney General Bill Schuette whose second biggest campaign contributor was… wait for it… The Michigan Wine and Beer Wholesalers Association.
So, if you need the cluster-coitus broken down into bite-sized acts of fiscal fuckery, Snyder, who sucks from the teat of Michigan’s booze PAC, is not worried about being indicted by his Attorney General, who is another Michigan booze PAC teat sucker, so that he can continue to live long and allow the Michigan booze PAC to prosper.
Tom Wark of Fermentation is equally incensed at the blind eye wineries and grape advocates have turned to such legislation, either ignoring it or outright supporting it.
He quotes Mike Beck, president of The Michigan Wine Producers Association, saying, ‘We support every legal aspect for people to have access to wine,” which is a far cry from saying, “We oppose legislation which will make certain currently legal avenues for wine sales illegal.”
In fact, it’s the opposite: It’s a cop-out of the mission statement, because Mike Beck knows as well as we do that Bill 1088 will benefit in-state shipping concerns, including his own, by eliminating competition. The Michigan Wine and Beer Wholesalers Association knows this, Attorney General Bill Schitty knows this, and the diminutive arachnid in Lansing’s capitol building knows it as well as he knew that Michigan’s Department of Environmental Quality was not treating the Flint River water with an anti-corrosive agent in violation of federal law.
Maybe nobody gets poisoned under Bill 1088, but the Snyder administration has been toxic to Michigan consumers (both water and wine) from Day One.
It’s time to haul out the heavy artillery: