It came down to the wire, but the always heated battle in Florida ended with the legislative session closing on Friday with no bills making it out of the state congress. Multiple bills were considered for wine direct shipping, most of which included a “capacity cap” on annual production for wine shippers. The major winery associations opposed all bills that included a capacity cap, and were therefore mostly pleased when the final bell rang without the passage of a restrictive bill. This was a truly classic battle between winery associations and the powerful wine wholesaler lobby.
Lacking legislation that would have created a permit system, the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation (DBPR) will likely maintain the status quo, meaning that wineries can ship to Florida without a permit as long as they remit excise taxes and do not ship to dry counties.
The scene at the Direct to Consumer Symposium in Napa on Friday was very interesting. Many attendees were listening to the “state of the states” update on direct shipping legislation, while we simultaneously received updates on the status of the session in Florida. Much of the two day event covered the subject of capacity caps, which have become an extremely hot topic of late. The Family Winemakers of California are currently making their case against the State of Massachusetts that production caps are unconstitutional. The action heats up again at the end of July.