HOMELAND SECURITY BILL: ATF’S ALCOHOL REVENUE, REGULATORY FUNCTIONS STAY AT TREASURY
Washington—The Homeland Security Act of 2002, passed by both Houses of Congress this week, leaves the alcohol regulatory and revenue functions of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms in a newly named Tax and Trade Bureau in the Treasury Department, consistent with the suggestions of an industry-wide coalition of alcohol trade groups, the Distilled Spirits Council announced today. Meanwhile, a large portion of the agency, primarily in the firearms, explosives, arson, and criminal enforcement areas will be transferred to the Justice Department, under the largest government reorganization since World War II. “This reorganization is precisely the outcome we were seeking,” said Distilled Spirits Council President Peter H. Cressy, noting that the distillers organization worked together with the major national groups representing all sectors and tiers of the drinks industry, including the Beer Institute and the Wine Institute. “There was broad industry consensus that our regulatory and revenue functions belonged at Treasury—and with a new name as well,” Cressy added. “It is a complete victory for the entire industry.” The Distilled Spirits Council, along with the other groups, lobbied hard to ensure that its regulatory oversight did not end up in the Justice Department or the new Homeland Security Department. “That would simply have been the wrong outcome and the wrong Departments, and could have easily resulted in our regulatory concerns being entangled or lost in the important matters of national security or unrelated law enforcement activities,” Cressy pointed out. Last year alone, over $6.6 billion of federal excise taxes were collected by ATF from the licensed beverage industry. It also issues permits to conduct business, reviews and approves product formulas and labels applications, and enforces trade practice regulations. All of which, Cressy noted, are integrated functions connected to the revenue collection activities and, hence, best served in the Treasury Department. In addition to the Distilled Spirits Council, and the Beer and Wine Institutes, the following groups also supported this effort: American Beverage Licensees; American Vintners Association; National Association of Beverage Importers; National Beer Wholesalers Association; The Presidents’ Forum; and Wine and Spirits Wholesalers of America.