Fate of Wine Direct Shipping in Florida Legislatures Hands State Alcohol Regulators May Revoke Ruling That Opened State in 2006

NAPA, Calif.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Free the Grapes!, the consumer and winery grassroots coalition, reports that Floridas Department of Business & Professional Regulation (DBPR) has not indicated whether it will continue allowing direct-to-consumer shipments from out-of-state wineries after Floridas 2007 legislative session concludes May 4. The DBPR website states that a legislative solution is required and it will remove the web page on May 4, with the ominous implication that Florida consumers will be cut off from buying directly from their favorite wineries on May 5. (www.freethegrapes.org)

The website is located at:

http://www.myflorida.com/dbpr/abt/auditing/wine_shipments/wine_ shipment_into_florida.shtml (Due to its length, this URL may need to be copied/pasted into your Internet browser's address field. Remove the extra space if one exists.)

The legislature now appears to have a 4-week deadline. Florida wine consumers and wineries are opposing Senate Bill 126 (Saunders) and Senate Bill 2282 (Geller) because they include caps that would impose a complete ban on winery-to-consumer shipments from any winery or wine company producing more than 250,000 gallons. (Laws in AZ, KY and MA with a similar, arbitrary cap provision are being challenged in court.)

The Senate Committee on Regulated Industries has scheduled a public hearing to gather input on SB 126 and SB 2282 on April 9, 1:15 3:45, at the Capitol, Senate Building room 110. Free the Grapes! encourages wine lovers to attend the hearing and voice their opinions.

Additionally, a hearing on House Bill 1217 (Bogdanoff), which tracks the industrys model direct shipping bill, will likely be heard in committee April 12.

So Florida legislators will face angry wine lovers if no action is taken by the DBPR, or if new legislation passes that ties up direct shipping in the courts, according to Free the Grapes!

As background, an August 2005 U.S. District Court order ruled Floridas direct shipping ban unconstitutional. It was followed by a DBPR determination that allowed Florida consumers to begin ordering wine directly from out-of-state wineries in February 2006. At the time, Florida was the largest U.S. state that did not allow legal, regulated winery-to-consumer shipping. Since then, the number of wineries filing shipping reports and paying the required excise taxes has increased from 0 to more than 500, according to the DBPRs website. From July 2006 through January 2007, out-of-state wineries shipped approximately 30,000 cases and paid more than $157,000 in excise taxes.

Since the U.S. Supreme Court ruled on direct shipping in May 2005, consumer shipping has become legal in 32 states, which collectively represent at least 78% of wine consumption in the U.S. Most states have successfully implemented the model direct shipping bill, which allows shippers to purchase a permit, pay taxes, mark boxes, and consent to the jurisdiction of the state, among other provisions.

Contacts

Free the Grapes!
Executive Director
Jeremy Benson, 707-254-1167
fedup@freethegrapes.org

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