Make us your home page
Instagram

Florida lawmakers consider restricting wine shipments to consumers

TALLAHASSEE — Florida lawmakers want to do away with reams of regulation — except when it comes to pinot noir.

The most heated talk in a Florida Senate commerce panel Tuesday was not on the state minimum wage or on tax credits, but on wine. Namely: Should big wineries continue to be able to ship bottles directly to Florida consumers?

No, argued Sen. Joe Negron, R-Stuart, and the sponsor of a bill winding through the state Legislature.

But he was outnumbered by colleagues who countered that wine aficionados should be able to buy their vintages from anywhere.

"They just want to be able to order wine on the Internet," said Sen. Nancy Detert, R-Venice.

Tuesday's discussion came on the heels of a recent survey that showed Americans drinking more wine than ever. The United States, according to Gomberg, Fredrikson & Associates, surpassed France last year to become the world's biggest consumer of wine.

In the Senate on Tuesday, the bill pitted Republicans looking to protect state wine producers against Republicans — led by a Democrat — touting the importance of a free market.

The original bill prohibited wineries that produced more than 250,000 gallons of wine a year from selling directly to consumers, as they do now. The threshold would affect the largest wineries that make most of the country's wine. None are in Florida.

The cap drew opposition from Sen. Jeremy Ring, D-Margate, who proposed removing it from the measure. His amendment set off nearly an hour of energetic debate.

"Why are we discriminating against those wineries whose parent company produces more than 250,000 gallons?" asked Sen. Paula Dockery, R-Lakeland. "Other than protectionism, what other possible reason could there be?"

"Protectionism has been excoriated in this conversation as if it were bad," said Sen. Don Gaetz, R-Niceville. "It is not necessarily bad to protect Florida businesses."

Even former Gov. Jeb Bush weighed in, via a letter he sent committee members that Dockery read aloud. Bush reminded senators of a 2005 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that states could regulate wine-shipping businesses but not exempt wineries within their borders from the restrictions.

Negron's proposal would also apply to Florida wineries, though none of them would have been affected by the production limits.

Of the 37 states that allow direct wine shipments, four have set similar caps like the one in Negron's bill. Two of the restrictions have been upheld by the courts and one was struck down as unconstitutional. The fourth has not faced a legal challenge.

In the end, the committee eliminated the cap by a 4-3 vote — though members left another reference to the 250,000 gallons elsewhere in the bill. It is unclear what effect that mention would have on the legislation.

The panel signed off on the rest of the bill, which would impose other regulations, licenses and fees on wine-shipping companies — including requirements that could bring hundreds of thousands of dollars in excise and sales taxes to the state.

The bill also limits the number of wine cases a company can deliver annually to a household to 12, and it requires a person 21 or older to sign off on the delivery of a wine shipment.

A long legislative journey still awaits the bill. It must clear one other Senate committee and several House committees before reaching the floor of either chamber.

Patricia Mazzei can be reached at [email protected]

Florida lawmakers consider restricting wine shipments to consumers 04/12/11 [Last modified: Tuesday, April 12, 2011 10:51pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Carrollwood fitness center employs scientific protocol to help clients

    Business

    In 2005, Al Roach and Virginia Phillips, husband and wife, opened 20 Minutes to Fitness in Lakewood Ranch, and last month they opened the doors to their new location in Carrollwood.

    Preston Fisher, a personal fitness coach at 20 Minutes To Fitness, stands with an iPad while general manager/owner Angela Begin conducts an equipment demonstration. The iPad is used to track each client's information and progress. I also included one shot of just the equipment. The center recently opened in Carrollwood. Photo by Danielle Hauser.
  2. Olive Tree branches out to Wesley Chapel

    Business

    WESLEY CHAPEL — When it came time to open a second location of The Olive Tree, owners John and Donna Woelfel, decided that Wesley Chapel was the perfect place.

    The Olive Tree expands its offerings of "ultra premium?€ extra virgin olive oils (EVOO) to a second location in Wesley Chapel. Photo by Danielle Hauser.
  3. Massachusetts firm buys Tampa's Element apartment tower

    Real Estate

    TAMPA — Downtown Tampa's Element apartment tower sold this week to a Massachusetts-based real estate investment company that plans to upgrade the skyscraper's amenities and operate it long-term as a rental community.

    The Element apartment high-rise at 808 N Franklin St. in downtown Tampa has been sold to a Northland Investment Corp., a Massachusetts-based real estate investment company. JIM DAMASKE  |  Times
  4. New York town approves Legoland proposal

    News

    GOSHEN, N.Y. — New York is one step closer to a Lego dreamland. Goshen, a small town about fifty miles northwest of the Big Apple, has approved the site plan for a $500 million Legoland amusement park.

    A small New York town, Goshen approved the site plan for a $500 million Legoland amusement park. Legoland Florida is in Winter Haven. [Times file  photo]
  5. Jordan Park to get $20 million makeover and new senior housing

    Real Estate

    By WAVENEY ANN MOORE

    Times Staff Writer

    ST. PETERSBURG —The St. Petersburg Housing Authority, which bought back the troubled Jordan Park public housing complex this year, plans to spend about $20 million to improve the 237-unit property and construct a new three-story building for …

    Jordan Park, the historic public housing complex, is back in the hands of the St. Petersburg Housing Authority. The agency is working to improve the 237-unit complex. But the latest plan to build a new three-story building for seniors will mean 31 families have to find new homes. [LARA CERRI   |   Tampa Bay Times]