If they ultimately become law, the amendments would fundamentally alter the method by which states control the shipment of alcohol across their borders.
The broader of the two, sponsored by Sen. Robert Byrd, D-W.Va., would give states the authority to seek federal court injunctions to enforce their home-delivery laws. The amendment was hailed by representatives of liquor wholesalers, who see the growing trade in direct sales, via the Internet or by winery mailing lists and retail store offerings, as a threat to their business.
The other amendment, sponsored by Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., would require checks by shippers to make sure that deliveries are not made to minors. After three violations of this provision by a winery, Feinstein's amendment would allow the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms to revoke its license to make wine.
The Byrd amendment passed on an 80-17 roll call vote, while Feinstein's measure passed unanimously on a voice vote. Both amendments were attached to the juvenile-justice bill that was introduced in the wake of the shootings at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colo. A House version of the bill has yet to be introduced, and the gun-control provisions of the Senate version have become the focal point of a heated political battle.
A vote on the entire bill was planned to take place by the end of this week, but it could be delayed by the gun-control controversies. Both the Senate and House versions of the bill would eventually have to be reconciled in joint conference committee, and a final bill may take several weeks to hammer out.
John De Luca, president of the Wine Institute, a San Francisco-based trade organization, said he expected the amendments to be included with the final Senate version of the bill but was hopeful that they would be modified or dropped in the House version. However, Rep. Robert Ehrlich, R-Md., plans to sponsor a separate bill similar to the Byrd amendment.
"It's not clear what will happen with the Byrd amendment," said De Luca. The Wine Institute opposes the Byrd provision but supports Feinstein's amendment. "The House could end up by not putting any of the amendments in its bill. In conference, anything can happen."
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