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Wisconsin Direct Shipping Bill Receives Governor's Signature

Senate Bill 485 was passed into law yesterday, making Wisconsin the newest addition to the list of permit states. Wisconsin was one of the three remaining states that had yet to change their direct shipping laws since the Granholm ruling. Direct shipping law did not authorize intra-state shipments of wine to consumers, and the reciprocity agreement defined by Wisconsin only allowed California wineries to ship directly to the state’s residents. Now, a winery in any state may ship wine directly to a Wisconsin resident once the winery has received a direct wine shipper permit from Wisconsin.

The new direct wine shippers permit allows licensees (licensed wineries that are located in- and/or out-of-state) to ship wine directly to an of-age and non-intoxicated individual in Wisconsin. The individual may receive no more than 108 liters of wine annually from any combination of licensees. The individual is responsible for compliance with this annual limit. The fee for this permit is no more than $100/year. Sales tax, excise tax and reporting are required quarterly.

This is good news for direct to consumer sales – no capacity caps, no touchy age-validation restrictions… but there’s a catch concerning self-distribution: all sales to retailers must go through a wholesaler.

Legislative Intent… Without the 3-tier system, the effective statewide regulation and collection of state taxes on alcohol beverages sales would be seriously jeopardized. It is further the intent of the legislature that without a specific statutory exception, all sales of alcohol beverages shall occur through the 3-tier system, from manufacturers to licensed wholesalers to retailers to consumers. Face-to-face retail sales at licensed premises directly advance the state’s interest in preventing alcohol sales to underage or intoxicated persons and the state’s interest in efficient and effective collection of tax.

Luckily, there are a couple safeguards for small manufacturers.

“All wholesalers must work diligently to ensure that distribution channels are available for the sale of intoxicating liquor products through wholesalers to retailers in this state.”

The legislation isn’t clear about methods or consequences for wholesalers if they fail to adhere to this clause.

The other safeguard: small wineries (producing under 25,000 gallons of wine in a year) may group together to form a “Cooperative Wholesaler”; this Cooperative must become licensed to act as a regularly-licensed-wholesaler in order to sell to retailers or other regularly-licensed-wholesalers. The maximum number of Cooperatives allowed is six, and they must be created between October 1, 2008 and December 31st, 2008. The Cooperative must have a single location within the state of Wisconsin (a winery can only belong to one Cooperative). If the Cooperative’s members consist of both in- and out-of-state wineries, then the board of directors must also include both in- and out-of-state members. Members may not be employees of the Cooperative, but may volunteer.

The bill passed through the Senate and the House in late February and was approved by Governor Doyle on March 13th. Last year, a similar bill was passed by the House and Senate, but was vetoed by Governor Doyle partly because the bill would have banned self-distribution altogether, and did not “adequately address the needs of small entrepreneurial wineries.” This year’s bill seems to address the aforementioned needs and received backing by the Wisconsin Wine and Spirit Institute. The new law goes into effect on October 1, 2008.

Reporting Madness

Hello and happy holidays from the ShipCompliant team! We’ve been a little quiet as we prepare to help all of our winery and retailer partners prepare for the big storm of reports that come due in January. Wineries that ship to all of the possible states for direct shipping can owe over 500 reports each year, depending on their filing frequencies with the state ABCs and Departments of Revenue. In January, all but one (for some reason, one of the New York reports is filed on a non-standard quarterly basis that starts on December 1st) of the reports come due. So, all other monthly, quarterly, semi-annual, and annual reports come due in January.

Tasting room, wine club, accounting, and compliance managers all get very busy just after the first of the year preparing their data for the annual reporting rush. A key to making this endeavor a success is to collect and maintain good, clean data from all of your direct to consumer order sources, including eCommerce, wine club, tasting room, and administrative orders. Many of the reports require copies of invoices or schedules of shipments that list order details. Also, remember that the three states that have abbreviations that end in the letter I (HI, MI, and WI) also require dates of birth on their reports.

Here’s to a happy new year and a successful reporting rush!

Doyle uses veto on Wisconsin budget bill

There was a flurry of activity this week in Wisconsin related to DTC shipping and self-distribution. You will recall that last month a host of onerous shipping provisions were included in the House version of the budget. These proposals would have repealed the existing reciprocal shipping statutes, replacing them with an entirely unworkable and exorbitantly expensive permit system. Just this week, we were able to amend the language related to DTC shipping in the final budget package to an acceptable package that would have allowed for a reasonable permit fee, as well as a 12-case per consumer limit (up from the 3 case original proposal). Unfortunately, the local wine industry was unable to secure a fix to the language banning self-distribution, which remained in the final budget. Early this morning, Governor Jim Doyle vetoed the entire section dealing with alcohol statutes, saying

“While the changes to the distribution system included in these sections may help address some concerns with sales of alcohol to minors, they also may have stifling economic effects on the small wineries around the state, forcing them out of business…While I am vetoing these provisions, I support the concept of a three-tier distribution system. The language included in the bill, however, does not adequately address the needs of small entrepreneurial wineries…”

Wine Shipping Permit System Passes via Badger Budget Bill

Governor Jim Doyle is expected to sign into law Senate Bill 40, the Wisconsin Budget Bill that passed both chambers of the state congress on Tuesday. Within an amendment to the budget bill are provisions that would strike the existing reciprocal statutes for direct shipping and insert language that creates a permit system for wineries from any state. If signed by Governor Doyle (which could happen “within days“), the budget bill would take effect seven days later.

As of today, Wisconsin is one of only three states, including Iowa and New Mexico, that have reciprocity requirements for wine shipping. Oregon and Illinois also recently passed legislation that removes reciprocity and creates permit systems that will take effect on January 1st and June 1st, respectively. Wisconsin currently only has an official reciprocity arrangement with the state of California. Because of this, wineries in other states technically can not ship into Wisconsin.

The new law would establish an annual volume limit:

No individual in this state may receive more than 108 liters of wine annually shipped under authority of the section. Each individual shall be responsible for compliance with this annual limit.

and a tiered permit system:

(a) For a permittee that ships more than 90 liters of wine annually to individuals in this state, $100.
(b) For a permittee that ships not less than 27 liters nor more than 90 liters of wine annually to individuals in this state, $50.
(c) For a permittee that ships less than 27 liters of wine annually to individuals in this state, $10.

See our previous post for background on this bill. Key changes from the original version passed by the Senate make this bill much less onerous.

Helpful Clarification Regarding Ohio’s New Shipping Statute Allows Some Wineries to Start Shipping

Wine Institute has received an initial clarification from the Ohio Division of Liquor Control that should allow some wineries to begin shipments to Ohio consumers. In addition to the restriction on the size of wineries (under 150,000 gallons) that can apply for a permit, there had been confusion surrounding the “family household” limit of 24 cases annually from an aggregate of winery sources. According to the advice that was given to our staff by the ODLC any penalty for a violation of the case limit provisions will fall solely to the consumers who order the wine, so long as no individual winery were to ship more than the legal amount to a given address. That being the case, those qualifying wineries that obtain a permit to ship should be able to initiate shipments of up to 24 cases of wine annually to any one Ohio address. It is likely that additional regulations and clarifications will be forthcoming, and we will keep members posted as they do. In the meantime, however, at least some wineries should be able to begin making shipments after receiving their permits. Permit applications are available at http://www.liquorcontrol.ohio.gov/1614pdf.pdf and a document outlining the program has just been posted at http://www.liquorcontrol.ohio.gov/DirectShipping.htm . Please contact WI State Relations at (415) 356-7530 if you have further questions.

Free the Grapes! Legislation and Litigation Update

From Jeremy Benson at Free the Grapes! :

Free the Grapes! Media Update
August 2007

Now that we’re at the end of most state legislative sessions, we thought it timely to provide an update on direct-to-consumer (DTC) wine direct shipping as of month-end July 2007. Here are some highlights, followed by a more detailed description.

Highlights:

o DTC legislation was considered in 23 states;
o Two states transitioned from reciprocal to a DTC permit system (MO, WV) with additional states pending (OR, IL).
o The legal direct shipping states for wineries represent 78% of wine consumption in the U.S., although retailers can reach far fewer states.

Wins:

  • Florida: the third largest state for wine enjoyment, remains a legal state for winery shipments after a fierce defense of the court order that allowed shipping;
  • Hawaii: a concerted effort to reduce quantity limits failed;
  • Missouri: transitioned from reciprocal to permit status (no fee);
  • North Dakota: increased shipping quantity limits;
  • Virginia: now allows Internet retailers without a physical presence to direct ship;
  • West Virginia: replaced reciprocal status with permit bill.

Losses:

  • Arkansas: DTC permit bill failed in committee;
  • New Mexico: reciprocal transition bill failed due largely to opposition by wholesalers and the beer lobby;
  • Georgia: effort to replace cumbersome law with permit bill failed;
  • Texas: passed a law limiting DTC shipping from in-state retailers outside their particular county;
  • Ohio: passed potentially unworkable permit system for DTC shipments, including capacity cap of 150,000 gallons;
  • Legal rulings supported the on-site sale requirement in ME, and opposed a challenge to TN’s shipping prohibition.

LEGISLATIVE UPDATE
Wine Institute provided significant input to the following summary of state activity this year.

States with Legislation Under Consideration

Wisconsin – For 20 years, Wisconsin has been a reciprocal state, allowing its consumers to purchase wine directly from wineries as well as in-state wine retailers. But consumers will lose these privileges if the Budget Bill passes as it is currently written. Anti-consumer provisions were slipped into the Senate version of the 384-page, $66 billion, two-year Budget Bill in mid-July. The conference committee will now reconcile differences in the Senate and Assembly versions of the budget bill.

Illinois – House Bill 429 passed both House and Senate and is before the governor for signature. It creates a winery-only DTC shipping permit that replaces the existing reciprocity law. The Specialty Wine Retailers Association was unsuccessful in securing an amendment continuing shipments from out-of-state retailers, although in-state retailers were successful at maintaining their in-state shipping privilege.

Additional States

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 and Senate, and was signed by the Governor on 5/31/07.

Arkansas – Senate Bill 592 (Whitaker), a positive bill that would have created a DTC shippers permit for wineries, died in House Rules Committee March 30.

Connecticut — Senate Bill 1204 was passed into law and changes the time period specified in the DTC shipping statute from 60 days to 2 months for the 5 gallon limit.

Florida – Shipping into FL is continues to be legal after competing bills—with and without discriminatory capacity caps—were considered but ultimately died in committees.

Georgia – House Bill 159 (Willard) and its companion Senate Bill 56 (Untermann) would have replaced the state’s convoluted shipping law with a DTC shipping license for all wineries (and retailers in SB56). The bills died in committee. Wholesaler-supported House Bill 393 (Stephens) sought to create new “domestic farm winery” and national “farm winery” categories with discriminatory capacity caps. The bill died in committee.

Hawaii – House Bill 1093 (Say) and Senate Bill 1019 (Taniguchi) sought to reduce consumer choice by limiting shipments under the existing DTC shipping permit from six cases per winery per consumer per year, to six cases per household per year. Both bills died in committee.

Idaho – House Bill 11 would have modified the permit legislation passed in 2006 to allow wholesalers and retailers in Idaho and other states to ship wine directly to consumers. Bill died in committee.

Maine – Senate Bill 54 (Bromley) would have created a DTC shippers permit for wine & beer. The bill passed the Senate on 6/12/07, but was killed in the house later that week.

Missouri — The Governor of Missouri signed SB 299 transitioning Missouri from a reciprocal state to a permit state effective August 28, 2007. The new permit law requires all wineries to obtain a direct shipping permit (no fee), limit shipments to two cases per consumer per month, submit an annual report by January 31, and pay excise taxes. The direct shipping permit application and instructions are available on the Wine Institute website at www.wineinstitute.org/programs/shipwine.

Nebraska – L441 (Mcdonald) will allocate funds raised by the existing $500 DTC shipper license fee paid by all wineries to be deposited to the NE Winery and Grape Producers Promotional Fund. The bill was signed by the Governor on May 30, 2007.

New Mexico – House Bill 1018 (Silva) passed the House, but was killed in the Senate after intense pressure from wholesalers and the beer lobby. It would have replaced reciprocity with a DTC shipping permit for wineries and retailers.

North Dakota – Senate Bill 2135 was signed into law and makes favorable changes to existing DTC shipping provisions, including: increased quantity limit from one to three cases per month, removed “reciprocal” provision passed in 2005 but never implemented, and removed vague language.

Ohio – During closing stages of budget process an amendment was adopted that will create a potentially unworkable permit system for DTC shipments into Ohio. The law has a capacity cap of 150,000 gallons, along with “per family household” aggregate limit that may prevent wineries from being able to ship even if they qualify for the permit. The bill was signed by the Governor on June 30 and becomes effective October 1, 2007.

Oklahoma – Several bills in the House and Senate were introduced, including a voter referendum to allow OK consumers to receive DTC shipments from out-of-state wineries, but a permit system has not been outlined. All bills died in committee.

Oregon – House Bill 2171 (Minnis) would transition state from a reciprocal DTC to a permit system for wineries and retailers. Status: The bill passed the House & Senate, and was sent to the Governor for signature in June.

Pennsylvania – House Bill 255 (Godshall) and Senate Bill 293 (Ferlo) are positive DTC shipping permit bills with a $100 registration fee, two cases per month to any individual. Taxes collected. Status: Both bills remain in Committee.

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 (companion bill was SB 1977, Stanley). Both bills died in Committee.

Texas – Senate Bill 1229 (Gallegos) was signed by the governor May 5, and limits the ability of TX retailers to use common carriers for DTC delivery outside their particular county. The bill was aimed at pending litigation spearheaded by the Specialty Wine Retailers Association seeking statewide sales via common carrier.

Virginia – House Bill 1784 (Cosgrove) and Senate Bill 1289 (Watkins) augmented current direct shipper permit to clarify that those shipments are by common carrier only, and created separate allowance for any legal shipper to make deliveries of up to 4 cases of wine to a consumer in their own vehicle. Additionally, Senate Bill 984 (Edwards) also became law, creating an “internet wine retailer license” to allow sales by a retailer having no physical premise.

West Virginia – Senate Bill 712 (Kessler) was signed by the governor and, among many other provisions, replaced reciprocity with a DTC permit bill for wineries, wholesalers and retailers.

LITIGATION UPDATE

Maine – As previously reported elsewhere, on March 5, U.S. District Court Judge Carter adopted the magistrate’s report and recommendation issued three months ago in the Cherry Hill (Tanford/Epstein) suit. This ruling supports an on-site sale requirement for any sales to consumers, contrary to an opinion rendered in December 2006 in KY ruling that on-site provisions were unconstitutional.

Tennessee – As previously reported elsewhere, the U.S. District Court in Tennessee ruled in favor of the state regarding what most thought was an ill-advised lawsuit (Jelovsek v. Bresden). The plaintiffs alleged that consumers faced a greater burden in traveling to another state to purchase wine in person at a winery than they faced in buying wine directly from a TN winery tasting room. The judge was not convinced, and the wholesalers have promoted their “victory” to bolster arguments for the preeminence of the 3-tier system in all matters.

Texas – All summary judgment motions have been filed. Oral arguments are scheduled for September 21 in Dallas. Wholesalers claim that passage of Senate Bill 1229 moots this lawsuit (see Texas paragraph under legislation, above).

Massachusetts — Motions for summary judgment are expected this winter in the case that seeks to overturn the 30,000 gallon production cap in the DTC law. Family Winemakers of California is the lead plaintiff.