Pennsylvania, along with Massachusetts, remains one of the two remaining key states that wineries and consumers both hope to see open for direct wine shipping. The possibility that this could be the year for direct shipping coming to the Keystone State remains quite real, depending on what happens when lawmakers return to the capital in the fall to consider a number of wine bills still on the table.
In June, House Bill 121 sponsored by Representative Curt Sonney passed the House and was delivered to the Senate for consideration. This is the second year that a shipping bill successfully moved through one half of the Pennsylvania General Assembly. Last year a bill passed through the Senate, but was held up in the House where the issue of direct wine shipments became conflated with the effort to privatize the state’s liquor distribution system.
Despite the fact that both a House and Senate version of privatization included direct shipping provisions, it is expected that HB 121, or another separate bill, such as Senate Bill 101, will be considered independently of privatization in the fall. However, HB 121 does have some problematic provision. For instance, as currently written HB 121 would require direct shippers to impose both a 6% sales tax on all wines as well as the state’s “Johnstown Flood” tax of 18% on top of the retail price of the wine. Such a tax burden could make the direct shipment channel prohibitive for many consumers. Senate Bill 101 compromises on this issue and creates a more palatable 12% “direct wine shipment tax” instead of the full 18% Johnstown Flood tax.
Still, optimism is currently running high that some form of direct shipment will be enacted this years as indicated by a recent article in the Pittsburgh Post Gazette that support for direct shipping has bi-partisan support. The Post-Gazette article also reported that direct wine shipments have the support of the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board (PLCB) as well as the influential United Food and Commercial Workers Local 1776, the union representing state liquor store employees.
It appears then that despite the ongoing struggle and battles over privatization, 2013 may very well be the year for wine shipments to Pennsylvania. We’ll monitor developments in Pennsylvania and report any significant movement on the various direct shipping bills as they occur.