Washington voters deregulated alcohol sales in their state this week, and it should be a result heard around the country. The election will almost certainly help opponents of the state store system in Pennyslvania, which has come under renewed attack over the past several years.
More importantly, and though it seems contradictory, the victory will spur the the beer and spirts lobbies to push harder for HR 1161, their attempt to limit federal control of booze regulation and to allow the states to manage their own liquor laws as they best see fit. More, after the jump:
Still, considering that Costco's money and clout didn't help it win a similar election a couple of years ago, this victory speaks volumes. It showed that voters don't necessarily accept the argument that de-regulated liquor sales make the world less safe, and that's something that the regulation side has been able to use with great effectiveness in the past.
Which is why this should spur the beer and spirits lobbies to push harder for HR 1161. I still don't think HR 1161 will become law -- this Congress couldn't agree about what day of the week it is, let alone pass significant legislation that would have to withstand a court challenge -- but that won't slow the beer and spirts people. They'll see the Costco victory, as Tom Wark has noted, not as a victory for deregulation on the state level, but as an instance where they were beaten by circumstances that won't be easily repeated elsewhere.
And, in one sense, they may be right. Several years ago, Oklahoma voters approved a referendum to allow local wineries to sell their product to retailers without a distributor. The distributors sued to overturn the result, and they won. This demonstrates how much more comfortable and effective the regulation lobby is working at the state level, and why the Costco victory won't intimidate them.
If you've got a constitutionally-protected monopoly, you don't scare easily.