May 4th, 2009
The streak continues. Once again Florida lawmakers were unable to pass any direct-to-consumer bills. Legislators presented two distinct direct-to-consumer bills for the 2009 legislative session but both have failed to advance beyond committee. Senate Bill 764 (House Bill 245 is its counterpart), the more restrictive of the two, would have required an annual $250 fee, a $1,000 to $5000 surety bond, a maximum production limit (capacity cap) of 250,000 gallons and a 12 case per year shipping limit. The bill survived three committee votes, but did not make it out of the General Government Appropriations committee. Senate Bill 272 (House Bill 251) would have placed no limits on production amounts or annual case shipments and the license and bond fees were much more wallet-friendly at $100 and $500 to $1000, respectively. Since neither of the bills passed by Friday, May 1, four consecutive legislative sessions have failed to produce direct shipping legislation. The Florida battle has probably been the most intense battle between winery and wholesaler associations over the years.
As of now, there are no statutes in place that regulate direct shipping to Florida residents. According to present law, out-of-state vendors must remit excise taxes and not ship to the five dry counties, but there are no other binding regulations. With no bill passed this year, Florida remains open under the administrative control of the Department of Business and Professional Regulation.