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February 3, 2012

NEW JERSEY: THE GOOD, THE BAD, AND THE GOALS FOR NEXT YEAR

On January 17, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie signed a bill that, when it goes into effect this May, will make NJ the 39th legal state for winery-to-consumer shipping. Wineries will have the option to ship directly to states that represent 89.5% of wine consumption.

The new law is a step forward for the fourth largest state for wine consumption, but it is not without faults. These onerous regulations will certainly be in the crosshairs of industry representatives, who have quietly fixed overly burdensome regulations in numerous states.

The law includes a “capacity cap” that allows small wineries to ship directly to consumers but bans shipments from mid-sized wineries or wine companies producing more than 250,000 gallons per year. By most estimates, the bill will exclude 90% of U.S. wine production from direct sales to New Jersey wine lovers. Additionally, the bill has a high winery license fee (approximately $968, depending on several factors).

OTHER LEGISLATIVE UPDATES:

US House Resolution 1161
There are few updates on HR 1161, which now has a total of 108 House co-sponsors, one less than at the end of 2011. Oregon Congressman Kurt Schrader rescinded his support in January. The bill does not have a counterpart in the Senate, and the House Judiciary Committee hearing has not been scheduled.
Massachusetts
House Bill 1029 remains in play, which would open up the state to DTC shipments and remove many of the technical obstacles that were the subject of negotiations in 2011. A Free the Grapes! consumer member asked the Governor during a radio call-in interview in December about the bill. The Governor said that he supports wine direct shipping, implying that he would sign the bill if it gets to him.
Pennsylvania
Senate Bill 790 passed the Senate November 16, 2011, and there are ongoing discussions with the PLCB to determine a viable tax rate.

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