Massachusetts Lawmakers to Hear Testimony on Wine Direct Shipping, Tuesday, May 10th

Friday, May 6, 2011

Everyone once in a while I get an E-mail I've been waiting a long time for and knock out a blog post immediately. Just now I received this press release from Free the Grapes about an important hearing this coming Tuesday in Massachusetts.

MA HB 1029 would finally, mercifully, allow direct shipment of wine from out of state wineries to Massachusetts residents.

Here's a quick Q&A with Free the Grapes:

WWP: What would you suggest MA wine consumers do to right now to help MA HB 1029 pass and allow direct shipment from out-of-state wineries to MA consumers?

Free the Grapes: We encourage Massachusetts wine lovers to express their support of wine direct shipping in their state by sending letters to the committee’s leadership through our website. Next week we will update the distribution list beyond the committee to include all MA legislators, in order for us to broaden the message. http://capwiz.com/freegrapes/issues/alert/?alertid=34295506

WWP: If the bill passes, how long until direct shipments become a reality?

Free the Grapes: It’s too early to tell. Like in other states, the licensing parameters and common carrier approvals precede issuing winery licenses. To use Maryland as an example, the bill will be signed by the Governor next week on 5/10, but the comptroller’s office is prepping documents and regulations to meet the law’s effective date of 7/1/11. This is common.

WWP: Would the bill allow direct shipments from out of state retailers to MA consumers?

Free the Grapes: No. The bill allows for wine shipments from licensed wineries directly to Massachusetts consumers.

From the press release:

May 6, 2011, Napa, CA –  On Tuesday, May 10 the Joint Committee on Consumer Protection and Professional Licensure will hold a public hearing to discuss House Bill 1029. Passage of this bill would mark an end to the state’s archaic ban on wine shipments from licensed wineries directly to Massachusetts consumers, according to Free the Grapes!, the national coalition of consumers, wineries and retailers. www.freethegrapes.org

Hearing Details:

What: House Bill 1029
Who: Joint Committee on Consumer Protection and Professional Licensure
When: Tuesday, May 10, 2011; 1:00 PM Eastern Time
Location: Massachusetts State House, Room A-1, 24 Beacon St, Boston, MA 02108
Bill Information: http://www.malegislature.gov/bills/187/house/h01029

HB 1029 conforms to the ruling Family Winemakers of California v. Jenkins, which was upheld by the 1st Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals in January 2010. The lawsuit successfully challenged a 2006 Massachusetts statute banning winery-to-consumer shipments from wineries and wine companies producing more than 30,000 gallons per year, and who retain a wholesaler. The 30,000 gallon capacity cap was ruled to be discriminatory and the legislature was tasked with developing a remedy.

Introduced in February by Representative David M. Torrisi, HB 1029 is similar to the model direct shipping bill that is the foundation for statutes in the majority of U.S. states, providing legal, regulated direct shipping to consumers. Among other provisions, HB 1029 requires wineries to purchase a state-issued shipping license, to mark boxes as requiring an adult signature at delivery, and limits the quantity of wine shipped to individuals to 24 cases per year. The basis for HB 1029, the model direct shipping bill, was cited by the U.S. Supreme Court and supported by the Federal Trade Commission.

Thirty-seven states and Washington D.C. – but not Massachusetts – allow licensed wineries to ship directly to consumers – those states account for 83% of US wine consumption. Massachusetts is the seventh largest wine consumption state in the U.S. however it is one of 17 states that continue to ban winery-to-consumer direct shipments. Maryland Governor O’Malley is scheduled to sign House and Senate Bills later this month to allow winery direct shipping, which will make Maryland the 38th state to allow winery direct shipping.

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