The Regular session of the Florida Legislature will convene on March 4, 2008. During the 60 days following, legislators should decide on one of three winery shipping bills that could be introduced into Florida law. I say should, hoping that last year’s unsuccessful passage will not be repeated. Since 2006, wineries have been able to send relatively unrestricted shipments to Florida consumers. Back in 2006, the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation (DBPR) decided to become compliant with Granholm; because of this they have allowed shipments, hoping legislation would be passed. In 2007, many thought they might take this allowance away after all three bills failed to pass into law.
The 2008 winery shipping legislation contestants have several things in common. The bills would require a $1000 – $5000 bond, a $250 permit (the annual application and registration fee for Florida Farm wineries is $100), varied annual shipment quantity limitations per household, reporting and payment of sales and excise taxes, and applicants must produce less than 250,000 gallons of wine annually.
HB 693 (Bogdanoff) – In 2007, the only bill that did not have a capacity cap was authored by Bogdanoff. Unfortunately, this year the cap is set to 250,000 gallons just like the other two bills. Other restrictions that stand out: Fingerprinting of applicants; consumers may not purchase more than 18 cases of wine per household; Age verification (receiving a copy, electronic or otherwise, of a purchaser’s driver’s license; or asking for and recording all purchasers’ names, ages, and dates of birth); if the applicant is owned by a winery that sells more than 250,000 gallons of wine, the division may not issue a license.
SB 1736 (Geller) – Geller was also an author of a competing 2007 bill. The 2008 version looks pretty much the same: The applicant must produce less than 250,000 gallons of wine annually; brand registration is required for all wine shipped; the Winery Shipper must require the person to state that he or she is 21 years of age or older, ship no more than 15 cases per household per year; the Winery Shipper shall offer the brands of wine shipped under this section to license distributors; knowingly and intentionally shipping wine to a person under 21 is a 3rd degree felony.
Of the three bills in 2008, it seems SB 1096 (Margolis) is the one wine lovers and makers will be rooting for the least. Without focusing too much on the regular restrictions, let’s just note the more shocking ones:
“The Legislature finds that the importation, distribution, and sale of alcoholic beverages require strict regulation in order to promote temperance by discouraging consumption by underage persons… fiscal health of the state… these purposes are best achieved through the state’s comprehensive system of licensing and regulation, including the three-tier system of alcohol distribution which has been the law of this state since the repeal of Prohibition.”
— Confusing distributor language: “The division may not issue or renew a license under this section if the applicant or licensee has appointed a distributor in this state, unless the applicant provides to the division a copy of a written notice sent to the distributor of intent to obtain a winery shipper’s license 1 year before applying for a winery shipper’s license under this section” (if passed, this would go into effect 4 months from now making it hard to give 1 year notice before the license becomes available.) However, it is later stated that “A licensed winery shipper must offer to its distributor for purchase and sale per calendar year the same brands and quantities of wine shipped per calendar year under this section”
— Licensees may not ship more than 4 cases per year per household. In addition to the licensee restriction, consumers may not purchase more than 4 cases per household per year. For common carriers, the signature form must inform the recipient that the wine is for personal or household consumption only, and not for resale. Wineries must have a written contract with the common carrier saying that the common carrier will do this.
— Knowingly and intentionally shipping wine to a person under 21 is a 3rd degree felony.
Since 2006, wineries and wine lovers have enjoyed relative freedom when shipping wine directly to Florida consumers. Florida is ranked #2 in table wine consumption, which accounts for a big chunk of addressable market share of direct shipments. If any of these bills pass as is, it might feel like you’re living with your parents again; you can go to the party, but you can’t stay out past 8:00. Maybe if we keep putting the pressure on the lawmakers, we’ll at least be able to stay out past midnight.