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Missouri ATC Updates Direct Shipper Information

The Missouri ATC updated its website yesterday with its interpretation of SB 299. As noted in our previous post, SB 299 changes Missouri’s shipping status from a reciprocal shipping state to a limited/direct shipping state for wineries. After August 28th, there will remain only five winery reciprocal states (OR, NM, IA, IL, and WI). Oregon will also move into the limited direct category effective January 1st, 2008 if the new legislation is signed by the Governor.

According to the Missouri ATC, all wineries, regardless of their location, will be allowed to ship directly to Missouri consumers until August 28th, 2007 when the law takes effect. However, “beginning August 28th, 2007, wine manufacturers will be required to have a license to ship wine directly to consumers, only ship wine using licensed alcohol carriers and pay excise taxes on wine shipments to consumers.”

An interesting aspect of the new Missouri law is its interpretation of reciprocity for out-of-state retailers. In effects, the new law continues to allow:

Missouri retailers to ship wine directly to consumers. Section 311.462, RSMo, provides that a holder of a retailer alcoholic beverage license in this state may ship wine, for personal use and not for resale, to any adult resident in this state. However, the following restrictions are in place: 1. May ship no more than two cases of wine annually to adult consumers. 2. The shipping container shall be clearly labeled to indicate that the package cannot be delivered to a person under the age of twenty-one years or to an intoxicated person. 3. Prohibits soliciting and advertising of wine shipments

But, the ATC interpretation states:

It remains illegal for out-of-state retailers to ship directly to consumers from any state other then reciprocal states per Section 311.462, RSMo. However, as of August 28, 2007, no other state affords Missouri retailers shipping privileges without permits or excise taxes due. Therefore, shipping by out-of-state retailers into the state of Missouri is not allowed.

Finally, the electronic application as it stands is all but unworkable. There are multiple steps in the process each more confusing than the last and prone to errors. We will have more information on simplifying this process in the next day or two.

Update: The ATC just removed the link to the Word document with direct shipping information. They also removed the electronic application for wine shippers. Stay tuned…

Missouri to end reciprocity on August 28th

On July 13th, Missouri Governor Matt Blunt signed into law SB 299. SB 299 changes Missouri’s current status as a reciprocal shipping state to a limited/direct shipping state. Beginning August 28th, 2007, in-state and out-of-state wineries may obtain a Direct Shipper’s permit and ship up to 2 cases per month, up from the previous 2 cases per year limit.

Wineries will be required to renew the Direct Shipping permit annually, remit excise and sales tax, and file reports of all transactions. Common carriers will also be required to obtain a license to carry and deliver alcoholic beverages.

SB 299 also continues to allow in-state retailers and retailers from reciprocal states to ship directly to consumers at the previous limit of 2 cases per year.

The Missouri ABC is currently drafting its Direct Shippers permit application and reporting requirements. These documents should become available sometime later this month. We will provide updates on the permit documents, tax rates, etc, as they become available. Check back soon.

Update: The Missouri LCD confirmed that sales tax will not be required for out of state wine shippers with no nexus in MO (see the strike-through in the post above).

Free The Grapes! legislative update

Free the Grapes! recently provided an update on direct to consumer shipping legislation and litigation for 2007. As you can see below, many changes are likely to come this year.

LEGISLATIVE UPDATE

Wine Institute provided the following summary of direct shipping legislation around the country.

Alaska –House Bill 34 (Ledoux) would specifically allow in-state wineries to make DTC shipments to AK consumers, with a 5-gallon per shipment limit. Status: passed House 2/14/07 and moves to Senate Community and Regional Affairs and to Senate Labor and Commerce.

Arkansas – Senate Bill 592 (Whitaker), a positive bill, creates a DTC shippers permit for wineries. Provisions include: 24 cases annually, $10 permit application fee, sales and excise tax payments annually. Status: Introduced.

Connecticut — Senate Bill 1204 (Joint Committee on General Law) makes a change to the time period specified in the DTC shipping statute from 60 days to 2 months for the 5 gallon limit. Status: Passed out of General Law on 2/27/07.

Florida – Shipping into FL is currently legal. Senate Bill 126 (Saunders) and SB 2282 (Geller) would implement a version of the industry’s model direct shipping bill, but both bills include a discriminatory 250,000 gallon capacity cap opposed by consumers and wineries. Alternatively, House Bill 1217 (Bogdanoff) does not include a cap.

Georgia – House Bill 159 (Willard) and its companion Senate Bill 56 (Untermann) create a DTC shipping license for all wineries (and retailers in SB56), repealing existing law which prohibits wineries with a wholesaler from obtaining a license. Other provisions: $100 permit fee, 24-case annual limit, sales and excise taxes to be collected. This bill is getting industry support.

The wholesaler’s House Bill 393 (Stephens) includes a discriminatory 100,000 gallon capacity cap, creates a new “domestic farm winery” using at least 50% GA grapes, and a national “farm winery” definition of a winery under 100,000 gallons that uses at least 40% grapes from its state of domicile. Such wineries can obtain a DTC shipping permit to ship up to 20 cases of wine per consumer annually. Status: Favorably reported out of House Regulated Industries Committee on 2/21/07.

Hawaii – Two bills, House Bill 1093 (Say) and Senate bill 1019 (Taniguchi), appear to be dead in committee. They would have reduced consumer choice by limiting shipments under the existing DTC shipping permit to 6 cases annually per household from an aggregate of wineries (current system is 6 cases per winery).

Idaho – House Bill 11 would modify the permit legislation passed in 2006 to allow wholesalers and retailers in Idaho and other states to ship wine directly to consumers. Status: Referred to House Revenue and Taxation on 1/22/07.

Illinois – House Bill 429 (Acevedo) is similar to last year’s transition bill that creates a winery-only DTC shipping permit to replace the existing reciprocity law. Provisions include a tiered permit fee based on size of the winery from $150 to $1,000, 12 cases annually, with sales and excise tax collection. Free the Grapes! is encouraging inclusion of retailers in the bill. Status: Passed from House Consumer Protection Committee on 2/20/07 by vote of 11-0. There is also a similar bill in the Senate (SB123, Silverstein).

Iowa – ABC hearings were held on 2/24/07. The ABC recommended to legislators that the reciprocity statute be replaced with a DTC shipping permit system. Other proposals addressed at the hearing include changing the local winery preferential tax rate, changes in Iowa wine labeling rules for IA wineries, and changes to existing designation of 5% of wine tax revenues to Iowa Wine Development Board. Status: Awaiting action by legislature.

Maine – Senate Bill 54 (Bromley) creates DTC shippers permit for wine & beer. Winery or retailer obtains a COA and nonresident shipper’s license ($100 fee). Annual sales and excise tax payments required. Status: Introduced.

Missouri – House Bill 944 (Cooper) creates a DTC permit for wineries to ship 2 cases per month, and requires permit and tax collection. Carriers must obtain permit. Amendment to add retailers drafted on 2/26/07. Status: Introduced.

Montana – Senate Bill 524 (Wanzenried) proposes changes such as adding “purposely, knowingly or negligently” language to the connoisseur’s license, which does not currently work for consumers or wineries. Status: Reported “Do Pass” from Senate Business, Labor and Economic Affairs on 2/21/07.

New Mexico – House Bill 1018 (Silva) creates DTC shipping permit for wineries and retailers to replace reciprocity. Provisions: $50 fee, pay excise and Gross Receipts Tax, 24 cases annually. Status: Passed favorably on 9-1 vote from House Business & Industries Committee on 2/25/07. Companion bill is Senate Bill 1047 (Taylor).

New York – Interestingly, Assembly Bill 4345 (Destito) replicates the wine DTC shipping program for beer manufacturers and beer wholesalers. Free the Grapes! has no activities or campaigns concerning this bill because it deals with beer and not wine. Status: Introduced.

North Dakota – Senate Bill 2135 (Senate Finance and Taxation Committee) makes changes to existing DTC shipping statute. Provisions: increases amount of shipments to 3 cases per month (currently 1 case per month), removes “reciprocal” provision passed in 2005 but never implemented. Removed vague language that could have been interpreted to allow an in-state winery to also hold a wholesalers license – clarifies no self-distribution, which was believed to be the case by in-state industry at this time anyway. Status: Passed Senate 1/23/07 and now to House Finance and Taxation.

Oklahoma – Several bills in the House and Senate have been introduced, several of which request a voter referendum to allow OK consumers to receive DTC shipments from out-of-state wineries, but a permit system has not been outlined.

Oregon – House Bill 2171 (Minnis) transitions OR from a reciprocal DTC to a permit system. Would cover wineries only. Status: Introduced. This is the OLCC bill. House Bill 2488 (House Business and Labor Committee) is similar, allowing wineries, retailers and “associations” to obtain permits. $50 fee. Excise taxes to be paid. Unlimited shipments. Status: Introduced.

Pennsylvania – House Bill 255 (Godshall) is a positive DTC shipping permit bill with a $100 registration fee, 2 cases per month to any individual. Taxes collected. Status: Introduced.

Tennessee – House Bill 1850 (Todd) creates a DTC shipping permit for 2 cases annually. Provisions: $100 fee, annual reports, annual excise and sales tax payments. Status: Introduced. Companion bill in Senate (1977, Stanley).

Virginia – Senate Bill 984 (Edwards) creates an “internet wine retailer license” to allow sales by a retailer having no physical premise. Status: Passed both House and Senate and sent to Governor on 2/22/07.

West Virginia – Senate Bill 712 (Kessler) is an omnibus liquor bill, that among many provisions, includes creation of a DTC shipping permit for wineries, wholesalers and retailers. Provisions include: $150 permit fee, 2 cases per month, sales and excise tax payments. Removes self distribution privilege for instate wineries. Original 50% tax increase has been removed. Creates a “wine spa” license, a wine B&B license, and a “mini” winery license to replace farm winery permits.

LITIGATION UPDATE

Texas — The Specialty Wine Retailers Association (SWRA, www.specialtywineretailers.org) litigation in Texas to address that state’s discriminatory stance between in-state and out-of-state retailers is in its discovery phase. Until the case is decided, out-of-state retailers may continue to ship to Texas consumers.

Massachusetts — The Family Winemakers of California reports that its lawsuit against the State of Massachusetts seeking to overturn the 30,000 gallon production cap in the DTC law is still in the discovery phase. Once discovery is complete both sides will be preparing motions for summary judgment for later in the year.

Direct shipping bill passes West Virginia Congress

In May of 2005, in the case of Granholm v. Heald, the United States Supreme Court effectively invalidated the practice of reciprocity because it discriminates against wineries in non-reciprocal states. At that time, there were 13 reciprocity states. Today, there are only seven reciprocity states left (Oregon, New Mexico, Iowa, Missouri, Wisconsin, Illinois, and West Virginia), and at the end of 2007 there may be only two as Oregon, New Mexico, Missouri, Illinois, and West Virginia have legislation pending that would move their states into the “limited direct”, or permit state category.

West Virginia may be the first reciprocal state to change in 2007. Senate Bill 712 recently passed the West Virginia Congress and is expected to be signed by the Governor. This bill would create a permit system where in-state and out-of-state wineries can apply for and receive a license to ship up to two cases of wine per month directly to adult residents. Permitted wineries would be responsible for reporting monthly excise tax (beginning July 1, 2007), sales tax, and a schedule of shipments made in the previous month. The permit would cost “One hundred fifty dollars per year for a direct shipper’s license for a licensee who sells and ships only wine and two hundred fifty dollars for a direct shipper’s license who ships and sells wine, nonfortified dessert wine, port, sherry or Madeira wines” plus a brand registration fee of $100 per brand for three years. Common carriers shipping into WV would be required to collect an adult signature upon delivery of wine packages.

One thing to note about this bill is that it would level-down on self-distribution, meaning that in-state wineries would lose their privilege to ship wine directly to retailers. There are also some requirements that are a bit gray as they are written, but will hopefully be sorted out and clarified after the bill is signed by the Governor and the rules are promulgated by the Alcohol Beverage Control Commissioner.

A response to the Family Winemakers lawsuit

Doug Caskey, from the Colorado Wine Industry Development Board, responded to our post about the lawsuit in Massachusetts with a lengthy comment. I wanted to republish it in a new post because it is well worth reading.

At the risk of sounding like a traitor to the cause of wine, free trade and the American Way, I would like to challenge the premises that underlie Mr. Kronenberg’s lawsuit against the revised wine shipping statutes in Kentucky. As a representative of the very small wineries in Colorado, the last thing I want to do is “protect and perpetuate a wholesaler monopoly at the expense of wineries seeking market opportunities,” as Mr. Kronenberg accuses the Kentucky legislature of doing. Yet, I take exception to his comment that we are “one national economic market.” As recent court rulings in Virginia and Michigan have shown, the local implementation of the three-tier system was reinforced, not invalidated by the Granholm decision, as long as the implementation is not discriminatory or preferential. States still have the right to regulate alcohol in a meaningful way that suits the “needs and desires” of their residents, as the language of the Colorado Liquor Code requires.

If a state chooses to impose size limits on certain privileges for liquor distribution or market access, that state may well be doing so because it has determined that small wineries have more difficulty getting their products through the three-tier system than large wineries with sales teams and marketing budgets. That state could be saying that it values small businesses that stimulate agriculture, and it should not have to defend that position against the legal whims of wineries that produce more wine in a year than the entire state. While the Family Winemakers of California represents the “smaller” wineries in that state, I doubt if many of Mr. Kronenberg’s members produce less than the entire state of Kentucky or Colorado or both states combined.

We should remember that prior to Prohibition and the 21st Amendment, the beverage alcohol industry was made up of small, local breweries and wineries in almost every community. The advent of the mega-breweries and corporate wineries was something that happened as a result of Prohibition. The 21st Amendment was designed to protect states against the liquor monopolies spawned in the void created by Prohibition. The framers of that amendment wanted to return to the alcohol industry model of the late 19th and early 20th Centuries. It is easy to accuse the wholesale industry of being monopolistic because a handful of companies dominate the market in every state. But the same can be said of the large wineries in California.

The grape growing industry did not disappear in California and New York as a result of Prohibition the way it did in most other states, such as Colorado. Our vineyards were replanted to peach trees. Consequently, California wineries, and certain breweries in St. Louis and Golden, were able to capitalized on the demise of the local wine industries and recover more quickly than those in the rest of the county. The wine industries in states other than New York, California and Washington are just now coming back from Prohibition.

So at this point in history when California’s wine industry, which has been growing nicely for 40-50 years, complains that states are discriminating in favor of small wineries, it is in truth asking the courts for special protections. In effect, the 40-50 year advantage that California has over wine industries in the rest of the country, during which time small wineries enjoyed special protections and privileges from the California government, makes them the monopoly now. Under the guise of “equal protection” as spelled out in the Granholm decision, their legal actions have the impact of squelching the advantages that state governments want to give small agribusinesses like wineries.

The economic reality is that large wineries can afford to navigate the spiffs and expenditures of the three-tier system. Just because few states have wineries that produce more than 20,000 gallons annually, or whatever number a state uses to define a small winery, imposing size limits on direct shipment or self-distribution is not an attempt to inhibit trade. It is an acknowledgement we are not starting with a level playing field.

To my friends (and I hope we remain friends, as this is a friendly debate) Paul, at the Family Winemakers, and Steve, at the Wine Institute, I call on you to recognize the historic disparity between where your industry is and where the industries are in Colorado, Kentucky, Missouri and other states. You have a big economic head start on the rest of us. Our attempts to limit how the “big boys” play in our states are not attempts to keep you out. They are the implementation of each state’s right to define the rules for the three-tier system within our state, to identify who is small enough to need help and who doesn’t. This is the American Way.

Summary of changing states

Wow, there have been a lot of changes to direct shipping laws this year and we are not even at the six month mark! Many reciprocal and prohibited states are becoming permit states. This is good news for wineries and consumers, but it is hard to keep track of all the changes. There are several states that have passed direct shipping legislation this year that is not yet effective. Here is a brief summary of states that will change to permit systems later this year. Colorado, effective July 1, 2006: A permit is required, but there is no fee. Wineries can ship an unlimited amount to consumers and must pay excise tax. Sales tax is not required. Idaho, effective July 1, 2006: A $25 permit is required. Wineries may ship up to 24 cases to a consumer annually. Sales and excise tax must be paid by the winery. Indiana, awaiting promulgation of rules: Wineries eligible for the $100 permit must have sales under 500,000 gallons with no Indiana wholesaler. The initial sale must be an on-site transaction. There is a 24 case consumer aggregate total and 3,000 case winery total. Sales and Excise tax must be paid by the winery. Massachusetts, awaiting promulgation of rules: The direct shipper�s permit will cost $100. Any winery under 30,000 gallons may obtain a direct-to-consumer and self-distribution permit. Any out-of-state winery over 30,000 gallons who has no wholesaler may apply for a direct-to-consumer permit only. Households will be limited to 26 cases per year. Excise tax is required. In addition, there are some very complex common carrier requirements that could prevent the use of permits even for wineries that qualify. There is one piece of good news, if a winery manages to overcome all of these obstacles it will not be responsible for paying sales tax. Washington, effective June 7, 2006: The cost of a permit $100. Wineries can ship an unlimited amount to consumers and are responsible for paying sales and excise tax. The new laws will not be posted on the Wine Institute website until their effective date, but direct wine shipper applications and tax registration forms will be posted as soon as they are available. I am especially excited about the unlimited shipment amounts in Colorado and Washington. I wonder just how many wine clubs my friends at ShipCompliant will join?