Free the Grapes!

    May 17, 2013

There is a lot to report this month, and we’ll start with the winners.

THE WINNERS

Montana Becomes 40th Legal State for Winery Shipments

House Bill 402 was signed by the governor on April 12 and goes into effect October 1, 2013. The new law will replace the flawed connoisseur’s license with a workable wine direct shipping law. Less than 200 wine lovers actually hold a connoisseur’s license and FedEx, as you know, will not ship wine to Montana because the licensing requirement is on the consumer and not the winery. Congratulations to Wine Institute for this win.

Florida Session Ends without Change to Existing Law
The 2013 Florida legislative session has ended without a DTC bill. In years past, bills have been introduced that included capacity caps and other restrictions.

North Dakota Fix-it Passes
As reported by Wine Institute, Senate Bill 2147 was signed by the governor and permits licensed out-of-state direct shippers to use fulfillment warehouses in preparing direct wine shipments into the state.  SB 2147 remedies an issue in ND law that resulted in prohibiting the use of fulfillment warehouses by licensed wineries. Wine Institute worked with the North Dakota Tax Commission and key legislators in developing SB 2147 which update state law by establishing a “logistics shipper” license for persons involved in providing fulfillment services on behalf of a licensed direct shipper and requires reporting on those shipments to the North Dakota Tax Commission. These new requirements will become effective on August 1, 2013.

THE HOT PROSPECTS

Massachusetts: Wineries, Write Your Consumers!
As we mentioned last month, we need wineries to step up and contact consumers on their mailing lists in the Commonwealth. Encourage your consumers to visit www.freethegrapes.org and take two minutes to write their legislators. We need your help to counter the messages that the package store association is sending to legislators. Just click here for copy that you can use, or visit our Massachusetts tab on our site.

We have been very busy supporting House Bill 294 this year:

  • Letters: Consumers have sent more than 1,200 letters to MA legislators through FTG.org
  • Press Coverage: Free the Grapes has generated 40+ news stories in MA this year, helped by a very successful media day in Boston with former NFL quarterback and vintner, Drew Bledsoe
  • Consumer Contact: FTG has taken a booth and signed up consumers at the Boston Wine Expo (February) and Boston Wine Riot (April)

Pennsylvania: Tax Fixes Sought. Several bills in play would allow for DTC shipments but include bad tax language (adding 6% sales tax plus 18% flood tax to the retail price of purchased wine.)  Note that these bills are not part of the debate over privatization. ACTION: Include a paragraph on PA in your upcoming consumer e-newsletter. We need consumer support letters. Just click here for copy to use.

THE LOSERS

Flawed Arkansas Bill to become Law. House Bill 1749 was signed by the Governor on 3/21/13.  There was never any testimony taken on the bill which moved through the legislature in less than two weeks. The provisions of the bill are extremely onerous. For example, the bill requires consumers to be physically present at the winery at the time of the sale, deliveries must be made during business hours when alcohol may be sold in state, and boxes must include label provided by the AR ABC. The ABC must do rulemaking, and the effective date of the law will not be determined until the legislature adjourns.

Nebraska Passes Onerous Bill. L230 adds burdensome requirements to DTC shipments such as requiring monthly rather than annual reports, requiring notification of wholesalers, etc. The bill was signed by the Governor on 4/24/13.

SHORT UPDATES:

  • DE: House Bill 60 died in committee. Would have allowed DTC shipments.
  • GA: House Bill 137, allowing retailers to send wine gift baskets, died in committee.
  • IN: Senate Bill 15, which would have removed the winery visitation penalty, died in committee.
  • MD: House Bill 1420 died in committee and would have prohibited a DTC order to be transmitted to a winery by a retailer, wholesaler, or other third party (e.g., Amazon). House Bill 590, which would have allowed retailers to ship only sacramental or kosher wine, died in committee. Also, House Bill 1366 also died in committee, and would have allowed retailer DTC.
  • ME: Flawed House Bill 411 died in committee.
  • MI: Senate Bill 216 would add beer to the existing DTC shipping law.
  • MN: Senate Bill 66 would add malt liquor to DTC shipping statute.
  • OK: HJR 1035, similar to DTC bills in the past, died in committee. (Bill would require a popular vote and change in state’s constitution.)
  • RI: H6038, the model DTC bill, died in committee but is being held for study.
  • SD: S100, our DTC model bill, died in committee.
  • TN: H200 would have created a DTC shipping law for beer, but died in committee.
  • TX: Two bills that would require the state to “level down” if any portions of the ABC law were deemed a violation of the Commerce Clause, died in committee.
  • VT: Two bills that would allow DTC beer shipments died.