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Free The Grapes Update

 

 Free The Grapes Update

 Free The Grapes Update

April 2011

LEGISLATIVE UPDATE

Of the 13 states that continue to ban winery-to-consumer shipments, the four largest states all have active legislation: Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey and Pennsylvania. Here is a summary:
MARYLAND: About to Become 38th State to Allow Winery Shipments
House Bill 1175 and Senate Bill 248 are scheduled for a ceremonial signing by Governor O’Malley on May 10, subject to changes in schedule.
The MD Comptroller’s plans to launch the program are currently unknown, but proponents will be pushing to have permit applications and forms ready by the law’s effective date, July 1. So direct shipping will not take place before 7/1, and will not take place until the procedures are established and the common carriers are set-up to handle shipments (this is common for states making this transition).
Special thanks to the Maryland Wineries Association, Marylanders for Better Beer & Wine Laws, Wine Merchants Association of Maryland, Maryland Farm Bureau, Wine Institute, and consumers like you! And while the local retailer lobby ensured that retailers were excluded, legislator comments in the press indicate a willingness to make such improvements in the future. Cheers, Maryland!
MASSACHUSETTS: House Bill 1029 Under Consideration
House Bill 1029, introduced in February, is similar to the bill that stalled in 2010 and would allow for direct shipping and resolve the common carrier issue that is preventing shipments. If you attended the Second Glass “Wine Riot” on April 22 or 23, we hope you dropped by the Free the Grapes! table. And thanks to all of you who have been sending in letters!

  • Action: Please continue sending letters to your legislators by clicking here

NEW JERSEY: Complicated by Capacity Cap
As you may recall, the Senate passed a favorable shipping bill, SB 766, last year. Its companion, Assembly Bill 1702, was never heard in committee but rolled over into 2011. The situation this year has been complicated by the introduction of SB 2782, which resolves some of the issues for in-state wineries, but includes a 250,000 gallon capacity cap. A capacity cap at this level would exclude 90% of U.S. wine production from direct purchase by New Jersey citizens. Local wineries are supporting the bill although it conflicts with the broader winery industry position opposing capacity caps and goes against the 1st Circuit US Court of Appeals decision that ruled the capacity cap in MA to be unconstitutional.

PENNSYLVANIA: Finally, Progress
Wine industry representatives have worked tirelessly to find solutions to the tax and other issues that prevent direct shipping. But earlier this year, the PLCB reached out to discuss options and several bills have been introduced. On March 8, Senator Earll introduced Senate Bill 790, with Senate Law & Justice Committee Chairman Pippy as a co-sponsor. Then on March 23, Senator Farnese, who has sponsored a direct shipment bill in the past, introduced Senate Bill 886. Representative Godshall, who has also sponsored direct shipment legislation in the past, introduced House Bill 110 in January.
Are these bills perfect? Not yet. But wine industry representatives are working with the sponsors to correct problems with the bills and are hopeful that the sponsors will be amenable to improvements related to retailers, taxes, and what wines can be shipped. The bills may get Committee hearings as early as next month and we will keep you updated.

  • Action: Please write to support direct shipping in PA by clicking here.

Additional State Legislative Updates:
· Florida: Since March 2006, Floridians have enjoyed the right to purchase wines directly from wineries. But that could change. Senate Bill 854 and House Bill 837 were introduced earlier this year and the former was heard April 12 in the Senate Subcommittee on Commerce and Tourism. While the capacity cap issue was removed from one section of the bill, it was kept in another. We will have more updates on Florida as they become available.
· New Mexico: Gov. Martinez signed SB445 April 7, replacing the last reciprocal statute with a more standard permit bill for wineries, effective July 1, 2011. New Mexico wine lovers will be able to purchase from any licensed winery in any state that purchases a $50 annual permit. Retailer shipping was untouched by SB 445 and will continue.
· Indiana: HB 1132, a bill recommending a Maryland-like study of direct shipping – including the existing wholesaler exclusion and face-to-face requirement – has passed both House and Senate and was sent to the Governor.
· Rhode Island: SB 170, based on the model bill, was introduced and would replace the current face-to-face requirement.
· Tennessee: HB 853 and SB 1030 would allow direct shipping to all addresses in the state, rather than just the wet areas. SB 1030 passed the Senate on March 28 and is now in the House.
· Vermont: SB 9 would add in-state retailers to the existing direct shipping statute, and would increase the annual shipping limit from 12 to 20 cases per winery per consumer.

FEDERAL LEGISLATION: HR 1161

As you know, HR 1161 is the successor to last year’s controversial HR 5034, the most comprehensive and aggressive attack on legal wine direct shipping to date. Industry representatives of the wine, beer and spirits producer tier are working cooperatively to kill this anti-consumer, anti-business piece of legislation. The bill has approximately 50 co-sponsors, about one-half the number the beer and wine wholesalers had at this time last year for HR 5034, and a Senate co-sponsor has not been identified. There is more information on HR 1161 at http://www.freethegrapes.org/index.php?q=HR5034.

  • ACTION: Write your Congressional representatives about HR 1161 by clicking here.

Free the Grapes!
April 26, 2011

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