Ignorance or Apathy – Florida Direct Shipping Legislation

13 May

The old joke goes that someone is asked the difference between ignorance and apathy and they respond “I don’t know and I don’t  care.”

That seems to be the case among a large number of otherwise savvy wine consumers here in Florida.  No one seemed to know about, or care, that the wine and liquor wholesalers were yet again attempting to have legislation passed that would severely limit their ability to purchase wine directly from an out-of-state winery. 

One of the highlights (lowlights) of the proposed bills included the limit at twelve (12) cases of wine per “household address and the household’s business address.”  The bills were very particular that the limits would be tied to the address of the home, not an individual’s name.  That immediately begged the question of how then it could be tied to the household’s business address.  I don’t know about you, but I don’t think that my house gets up and goes to work after I leave in the morning.

Seriously, 12 cases of wine is a lot of wine in anyone’s book, until you think about folks that ship to a common location.  I have several buddies that all ship to one’s office; under the proposed legislation they would all have to share that 12-case cap.

Further, there was no system suggested to track how many cases were shipped to a particular address, or if it were tracked, how these data would be promulgated back to the wineries.  Given the severe penalties proposed for exceeding the limit, and no way to track what has come before, all of the wineries would err on the side of caution and not ship for fear of being the 13th case.

There were also requirements for detailed monthly and annual reporting.  Many of the wineries I buy from are “mom & pop” or even one-man shows, and the prospect of having yet another layer of paperwork may be enough for them to “just say no.”

I corresponded with several state Senators and Representatives and actually received personalized responses from a few.  One had the audacity to tell me that “the current system unfairly discriminates against Florida-based companies to the advantage of out-of-state ones.”  I do not know of one Florida winery that was unfairly discriminated against by me having the unrestricted right to buy wine directly from a winery in California, Oregon, North Carolina, or any other state. 

The state may not have collected sales and excise taxes for the sale, but that is another issue.

Apparently the state legislature had bigger fish to fry towards the end of this year’s session than sticking it to Florida’s wine consumers, so the bills never fully made it out of committee.

The gentleman who introduced the bill in the House (Chris Dorworth of Heathrow) is slated to be the Speaker of the House for the 2011-2012 legislative session.  I think Florida’s wine consumers need to know and care early in order to preserve at least some portion of their rights under the Interstate Commerce clause of the US Constitution, because I don’t think the wholesalers and their desire to limit or prevent direct sales from wineries will be going away anytime soon.

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