New Mexico Direct Shipping Applications Available Now and a Must for Wineries

The New Mexico Direct Wine Shipper Permit Application is now available on the state’s Alcohol and Gaming Division website. The state will remain reciprocal until July 1, at which time the new legislation takes effect and wineries must have a permit in order to continuing to ship wine to their New Mexico patrons.

To register for a license, wineries must:

1) Register with the Taxation and Revenue Department Tax for Gross Receipts Tax.

  • Registrations may be mailed in or submitted online.
  • Attach confirmation of the approved Tax Registration (including the assigned “CRS #”), to the Direct Shipper Application.

2) Submit the 1-page Direct Wine Shipper Permit Application.

  • Include a copy of home-state liquor license
  • Include the $50 annual permit fee

New Mexico will not accept Direct Wine Shipping Applications until July 1, when the state’s new legislation officially goes into effect. However, wineries may begin the permitting process now by registering to pay Gross Receipts Tax with the Taxation and Revenue Department.

Once licensed, wineries will be responsible for payment of Gross Receipts and Liquor Excise taxes and reporting. Wineries may ship up to two cases per individual per month.

Please note that the new law allows wine retailers with reciprocal shipping privileges to continue to ship wine to New Mexico residents under reciprocal law. No Wine Shipper Permits will be issued to retailers.

Wineries: Start the application process today and continue to ship into New Mexico.  Save 10% on service fees for your entire order when you order a New Mexico license from Easy Wine Licensing before July 1. Enter coupon code: NM2011 upon checkout for the discount.

The End of Winery Reciprocity. New Mexico Passes Direct Shipping Legislation

New Mexico’s Governor signed SB 445, which creates a wine shipping permit for out-of-state wineries, an important move both symbolically and for wineries seeking to serve customers in that state. Now, wineries from all US states can apply for a permit to ship wine to consumers.

New Mexico will be the last state to change from reciprocity to permit status for winery shipping since it was the last state that had a reciprocity law still on the books for wineries. The move from reciprocity laws to state permit laws was instigated by the 2005 Granholm v. Heald Supreme Court decision. That landmark ruling not only held discriminatory shipping laws to be unconstitutional but also noted a constitutional problem with reciprocity agreements when Justice Anthony Kennedy, writing for the majority, proclaimed that “States should not be compelled to negotiate with each other regarding favored or disfavored status for their own citizens.”

It should be noted that in changing its wine shipping laws, New Mexico has left in place “reciprocity” arrangements for retailer-to-consumer shipping.

The New Mexico Wine Shipping Permit goes into effect on July 1, 2011. It’s provisions include:

Cost of Permit: $50 per year
Bond requirements: None
Limits on Amount of Wine Shipped: 2 cases per individual per year month
Taxes: Sales and Gross Receipts tax must be paid by the direct wine shipping permit holder
Reporting: Due annually

H.R. 5034 Update: Revision Reignites Debate, Important Hearing Set for Wednesday

When H.R. 5034 (also known as the Comprehensive Alcohol Regulatory Effectiveness, or “CARE” Act) was introduced on April 15, 2010, the opposition responded quickly and forcefully. Supplier organizations were united in their opposition to the bill, referring to it as the “wholesalers monopoly protection bill”. Even the California State Legislature issued a resolution, SJR 34, that urged Congress not to pass H.R. 5034.

Proponents of the bill, including the National Beer Wholesalers Association (NBWA) and the Wine & Spirits Wholesalers of America (WSWA) claimed the proposed legislation was necessary to protect state-based regulatory systems from “attack” (i.e., legal scrutiny under the U.S. constitution), claiming that “25 states have faced challenges in federal courts to their authority to regulate alcohol and their ability to maintain a licensed system of alcohol controls” since 2005.

Following months of intense debate, heated rhetoric, and an incredible amount of public relations and lobbying activity on both sides, the House Judiciary Committee did not schedule the bill for a hearing until after the August congressional recess. During the recess, Representative Bill Delahunt, lead sponsor of H.R. 5034, sent a letter to House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers Jr., introducing new text in an what he terms effort to “perfect the language”, following “concerns about unintended [sic] consequences of the language as written”.

To help clarify the changes from the original version of H.R. 5034, we put together a redline document that highlights the revisions. The main change is the removal of section 3c, which established the presumption of validity and shifted the burden of proof in legal actions involving the regulation of alcoholic beverages. Like the original bill, the new version would immunize state laws that effect non-facial discrimination, such as capacity caps and in-person purchase requirements, if the discrimination were not proved to be “intentional”.

To better understand the revisions and the corresponding responses, we spoke with individuals from each of the tiers (the “three-tier system” includes suppliers, wholesalers and retailers) that are on the front lines of the debate.

Wholesaler organizations laud the new version as meaningful change. “While the proposed changes to the legislation address a narrower set of deregulatory concerns than the original legislation, it is certainly a step in the right direction,” says Karin Moore, Vice President and Co-General Counsel at WSWA. “The new version clarifies that the Granholm holding prohibiting facial or intentional discrimination against out-of-state producers remains the law of the land by incorporating the exact language used by Justice Kennedy in that landmark decision. The new language clearly and unequivocally confines itself to dormant Commerce Clause challenges, and addresses many of the concerns raised by opponents of the bill.”

Cary Greene, Chief Operating Officer & General Counsel at WineAmerica, sees broader implications. “There are many cases other than Granholm that elucidate how states can regulate interstate commerce in alcohol.  As revised, 5034 would undermine or reverse dozens of court decisions.  By scrambling settled case law, 5034 will cause years of re-litigation to try and figure out exactly what the new limits are.  The fact is courts have not done anything to jeopardize core Twenty-first Amendment powers.  State laws run into Constitutional trouble when they try to do something underhanded like fix prices or give an unfair market advantage to certain licensees or products.  5034 allows states to blatantly discriminate against out-of-state products without any concern for Twenty-first Amendment core purposes.  From a policy standpoint, I’m not sure why that would ever be a good thing.”

“The problems with HR 5034 remain significant, despite the changes to the language,” says Tom Wark, Executive Director of Specialty Wine Retailers Association. “Discrimination against out of state products would still be allowed on a number of levels and consumers are bound to be hurt by this legislation. Significantly for retailers, HR 5034 would strip wine retailers and merchants everywhere in America of their protection under the Constitution’s Commerce Clause from discriminatory state laws. It has happened only one other time in American history that an entire industry lost its Constitutional guarantee of free and open markets based on the constitutional principle of non-discrimination. Wine merchants would be catastrophically disadvantaged by H.R. 5034.”

imageA hearing in the House Judiciary Committee will take place at 11:00 ET this Wednesday, September 29th. This is an important hurdle in the process of moving legislation through Congress. Expert witnesses will testify in front of the full committee on Wednesday, and many parties will also provide written testimony to debate both sides of the bill. Barring technical difficulties, the hearing should be available via live webcast. Click here to watch the webcast (RealPlayer required).

So, what are the chances that H.R. 5034 will pass? Well, it’s important to note that the bill has 146 (not an insignificant number) co-sponsors from both parties in the House. On the other hand, supplier organizations continue to be unified in their opposition (Click here to view the joint opposition letter issued by the Brewers Association, WineAmerica, Distilled Spirits Council of the United States, Wine Institute, Beer Institute, and National Association of Beverage Importers on the revised 5034). We hope to learn a lot more in the hearing on Wednesday.

If H.R. 5034 moves through both chambers of Congress (no companion bill having yet been introduced in the Senate) and is signed by President Obama, not much would change overnight. Despite numerous reports that it would mean the end of direct shipping, it would not change current state laws that allow direct shipping. It would likely be an uphill battle to completely repeal existing direct shipping laws in most states. However, H.R. 5034 would open the door in states like Florida, New Mexico, and Massachusetts, where the direct shipping laws are in flux because of court cases and Granholm issues, for new state laws that introduce non-facial discrimination such as caps on production capacity (proposed for the last several years in Florida and recently nullified as unconstitutional in Massachusetts) or in-person purchase requirements. It would also provide discriminatory options for the remaining holdout states, such as Maryland, if their resident consumers’ support for direct shipment should become effective. With potentially greater long-term significance, it would tilt the field decidedly against extension of Granholm’s nondiscrimination principle to interstate retailing by non-producing shippers and to interstate wholesaling.

The Lone Reciprocal State

New Mexico Stands Alone

Offsite Wine Shipping MapIn 2004, 13 states had wine shipping reciprocity provisions. Essentially, reciprocal states allowed any winery to ship into their state as long as that winery’s state allowed an equal reciprocal privilege. The Granholm decision of 2005 effectively declared reciprocity unconstitutional (pop quiz: would reciprocity provisions be beyond challenge if HR 5034 passed?). Since then, 12 of the 13 reciprocal states have adopted permit systems that allow wineries from any state to ship in as long as they stay in compliance with the direct shipping rules.  Now that Iowa’s new permit system is live, New Mexico stands alone as the only remaining reciprocal state. Previous attempts to bring New Mexico into compliance with Granholm have to date been unsuccessful, so the reciprocity statutes remain in effect.

Don’t Forget to Remit Iowa Excise Taxes

Speaking of Iowa, effective July 1st wineries from any state (previously the reciprocity provision restricted the states from which wineries could ship into Iowa) can ship into Iowa so long as they are actively licensed as a "Wine Direct Shipper". Licensed shippers are required to remit excise tax monthly to the Iowa Department of Commerce – Alcoholic Beverages Division (ABD), and the first excise tax report is due this month. Each monthly report should be postmarked by the 10th of the month.

Although it’s possible that electronic filing may be available in the near future, for now the ABD is requiring that licensees complete the Report of Wine Shipments to Iowa Consumers spreadsheet, print it out, and mail it to:

Iowa Dept. of Commerce, Alcoholic Beverages Divisions
ATTN: Tax Division
1918 S. E. Hulsizer Road
Ankeny, IA 50021.

The form is fairly self-explanatory. For each shipment, licensees fill out the name and address of the recipient, the date of shipment, invoice number, total gallons of wine shipped, the shipping company (UPS, FedEx Express, or FedEx Ground), the amount of wine tax owed (multiply total gallons by $1.75), the permit number of the shipping company (UPS=AC0000003, FedEx Express=AC0000002, and FedEx Ground=AC0000001), and the tracking number of the package(s) that shipped. Reporting the tracking number and shipping company is not new to wineries as New York, Missouri, and Virginia all require one of the two data points.

Once you have completed filling out the spreadsheet, print out the completed form and make your payment out to “Iowa Alcoholic Beverages Division”. Stuff your envelope with the form and the check, and make sure it is postmarked by August 10th!

Up in the Air

On September 30, a federal district judge in a New Mexico suit brought by US Airways to free it from state regulation of beverage service ruled that the 21st Amendment prevents the federal government from preempting state regulation of alcoholic beverage service aboard federally regulated carriers. The decision leaves New Mexico regulators free to treat airliners in their airspace as if they were local taverns with respect to licensing, server training and over-service.

Although the case does not deal directly with wine distribution, it is a significant addition to the “weak Granholm” viewpoint, which lends support to trade barrier proponents in the second wave of wine access litigation now in the lower federal courts.

Supremacy

Judge Armijo’s opinion in US Airways, Inc. v. O’Donnell introduces some legal elements that may be unfamiliar to industry observers, but it represents a reading of 21st Amendment jurisprudence that is well worth examining. Examination will involve a little more detail about the Supremacy Clause of the federal constitution than has appeared to date in most public discussion of Granholm issues, but that will be unavoidable as post-2005 beverage law develops.

In the subject area of access by wine sellers to consumers and retailers in other states –that is, the development of a national market in direct distribution and direct retail sales and shipment– the recurring theme has been alleged incompatibility of state-imposed restraints with the Commerce Clause, which famously forbids permitting in-state wineries to sell and ship directly to consumers while denying that privilege to out-of-state wineries. That principle is said to arise under the “dormant” Commerce Clause, because it operates in an area, interstate commerce, where Congress holds exclusive power to legislate and has elected not to exercise it, thereby leaving the area federally unregulated and off-limits to state statutory restraints.

Supremacy Clause cases address the non-dormant side the Commerce Clause coin, where Congress has in fact exercised its power to legislate over a subject within its constitutional authority. A key question in Supremacy Clause litigation is whether existing federal legislation occupies the field being regulated, thereby invoking the Article VI declaration that laws passed by Congress “shall be the supreme Law of the Land … any Thing in the Constitution or Laws of any state to the Contrary notwithstanding,” to invalidate (i.e., “preempt”) the challenged state enactment. The answer is found by ascertaining the intent of Congress from the text of the statute.

Federal statutes may be found preemptive in more than one manner. The principal division is between (1) express preemption, i.e., a direct statement in the federal statute, denying states concurrent jurisdiction to legislate on the subject, and (2) implied preemption, i.e., a clear implication of that intent arising from the statutory text as a whole. Implied preemption further subdivides into “field preemption,” when the scope of the federal statutory scheme displays an intent fully to occupy the particular subject area, and “conflict preemption,” when regulated persons cannot comply with both the federal statute and the state law in question. The New Mexico case involves questions of express preemption and field preemption in the subject area of alcoholic beverage service on federally regulated air carriers.

In US Airways the federal legislation under consideration was the 1978 Airline Deregulation Act, which charges the Federal Aviation Administration with the duty to prescribe “regulations and minimum standards for other practices, methods, and procedure the Administrator finds necessary for safety in air commerce and national security.” Pursuant to that directive, the FAA adopted a regulation stating that no carrier under its jurisdiction “may serve any alcoholic beverage to any person aboard any of its aircraft who … [a]ppears to be intoxicated.”

The state had adopted a far more extensive set of regulations, including requirements for licensure and server training and penalties for over-service. Following a collision on a New Mexico highway involving multiple fatalities and a driver who was allegedly over-served on a US Airways flight to the state, the regulatory authorities ordered the airline to cease serving alcoholic beverages to passengers on flights arriving in or departing from locations within the state, without licensing as a retail outlet and compliance with regulations applicable to retail licensees.

Simple Question, Different Answers

The Airline Deregulation Act expressly provides that states “may not enact or enforce a law, regulation, or other provision having the force and effect of law related to a price, route, or service of [a federally regulated] air carrier.” Thus, the square one question was whether the suit were a simple case of express preemption, taking beverage service to be a “service” of US Airways.

As the meaning of “service” in the Act controls the outcome of the case, it is not surprising that the parties advanced different definitions. The state’s position was that the sentence in which the term appears deals with transportation services, so the term must be restricted to things like frequency of flights. That is a conclusion reached by one of the five federal appellate courts in separate circuits that had interpreted the Act (none of them the 10th Circuit, where New Mexico is located).

An alternative reading begins with observing that the statutory phrase is equivalent to “a price, a route or a service,” because the introductory indefinite article is placed to modify each of the following nouns. The implication of “a service” is that there are various services and that the express preemption applies to all of them. The reading urged by US Airways, in which the sentence applies to food and beverage service, is supported by the other four appellate decisions.

All five Circuit Court opinions apply recognized principles of statutory construction and dissect the text with well-sharpened scalpels. There is, however, a cleaver at hand.

Cutting Through Complexity –or Not

What makes US Airways worthy of discussion here is its use of the 21st Amendment to resolve a Supremacy Clause issue.

Rather than come to a conclusion as to which of the other circuits had reasoned correctly, Judge Armijo declared that the choice is forced, because interpreting the Act to apply to alcoholic beverage service would render it unconstitutional as a limitation on states’ rights preserved by § 2 of the 21st Amendment. Section 2 is, of course, the constitutional provision declaring unlawful the importation of intoxicating liquor into a state contrary to the state’s laws. Granholm adds the proviso that the state law claimed to trump a federal interest be “valid,” opening the floor to debate over how one tests for validity.

At the heart of the validity issue is the question whether parts of the constitution other than the 21st Amendment operate on state liquor laws in the same way as on state laws regulating ordinary goods. If they do, then the § 2 states’ right to venture into interstate commerce far enough to control wine importation at their borders applies only to laws that first pass muster under, e.g., the dormant Commerce Clause prohibition of discrimination against interstate commerce (as Granholm says) and under the Supremacy Clause (which US Airways ultimately excludes in the case at hand).

In finding state regulation valid, US Airways presents a somewhat convoluted syllogism, in which Congress did not intend to regulate liquor service because it could not constitutionally do so, but the federal statute might preempt the subject of liquor service anyway, if (a) the court found the federal interest in regulating liquor service outweighed the state’s interest in regulating the same subject and (b) the state laws had a significant impact on Congress’s objectives.

Imbalance

Judge Armijo implied that her decision was based in part on inadequate presentation of the airline’s case.

On how Supremacy Clause interests weigh in the balance, she wrote that US Airways “makes no argument and presents no evidence” that the state laws violate specific parts of the federal constitution, thus taking application of Granholm beyond the dormant Commerce Clause off the table. On the element of impact, she noted that the airline had not shown the state regulation “would have an adverse effect on competition and airfare.” She characterized the plaintiff’s contentions on effect as “speculative” and as taking too little account of unspecified “judicial and administrative relief under New Mexico law.”

Summing Up

After thus disposing of express preemption, the court might have had little to say about implied preemption; if the 21st Amendment would invalidate express preemption in a given subject area, it should also preclude inferring preemption in that area from Congressional occupancy of the field. However, in ruling against implied preemption, the opinion goes on to articulate two points that may prove controversial.

First, the court appears to view field preemption as requiring Congressional intent specifically to occupy a field consisting of the very subject addressed by the regulation in question, rather than to occupy a field broad enough to encompass that subject. Ascertaining implied intent is inevitably a process of divination with considerable discretion in the trial court, but the standard in US Airways may be unduly restrictive.

More significant is the second point, with which the opinion closes. The court declares that even if the subject requires “an extensive and uniform system of federal regulation,” a state may nevertheless assert a 21st Amendment right to exercise “virtually complete control” over how to structure distribution of liquor, entitling it to apply its panoply of retail licensee regulation to the federal carrier. It would be difficult to fashion a clearer expression of pre-Granholm law. The question is whether, in contexts that are not exact duplicates of the facts of Granholm, it is also a statement of current law.

Those who have followed this subject will recognize the “virtually complete control” phrase as part of a dictum from Midcal, quoted by Scalia in North Dakota v. U.S., where it was also dictum, and quoted again in Granholm, where it was dictum yet again and, as a dissenter correctly saw, incompatible with the holding. Ironically, the US Airways court cites Granholm for the control point. (For an explanation of the difference between holdings and dicta, see the blog post, Discrimination Against Out-of-State Retailers After Granholm.) Some dicta prove more substantial than the decisions that transmit them; whether that will be true of this one is the central question of current 21st Amendment litigation.

 

by R. Corbin Houchins, CorbinCounsel.com

Wine Distribution Notes – Release 26

Release 26 of Notes on Wine Distribution by R. Corbin Houchins is now available for viewing.

These notes are a great resource for keeping up to date with developing trends in direct shipping and direct distribution. As always, you can find the most recent version of these notes at the ShipCompliant Blog by clicking on the “Wine Distribution Notes” link under “Compliance Resources” on the right hand side of the page.
Each new release shows green highlighting on sections with changes from the preceding release. Release 26 highlights changes from the last two releases: highlights from release 25 include updates to Alaska, Maryland, New Mexico and Tennessee. Highlights from release 26 include updates to Florida, Indiana, and others. Read the notes to find out what else is new.