House panel OKs direct wine shipment bill; Senate panel conducts public hearing on two different direct shipment bills

A House panel approved legislation Wednesday that would allow wine to be shipped directly to consumers in Alabama, while a Senate committee conducted a public hearing on the companion legislation.

The House Economic Development and Tourism approved HB365 by Rep. Terri Collins, R-Decatur, and 35 others, while the Senate Tourism Committee heard from proponents and opponents of SB240 by Sen. Bobby Singleton, D-Greensboro.

The companion bills would:

  • Allow an already licensed wine manufacturer or an entity with a federal basic wine manufacturing permit to obtain a $200 wine direct shipper permit, which can be renewed annually for $100.
  • Allow each winery or manufacturer to ship up to 12 cases of wine annually per 21-year-old or older resident.
  • Require direct wine shippers to report to the Alabama Alcohol Beverage Control Board the amount of wine shipped directly to a consumer in a calendar year, including the amount shipped to each address.
  • Require the shipping wineries to collect and remit state and local sales, use and excise taxes.
  • Allow common carriers to ship any alcoholic beverage to Alabamians who are 21 or older. It requires the common carrier to verify the age of the person receiving the alcoholic beverage.
  • Makes it a Class C misdemeanor to ship directly to an Alabama resident without a permit.

Collins and Singleton proposed similar bills in the 2019 session. The legislation is also supported by the Wine Institute, a California-based organization that represents some 1,000 wineries. Representatives of Alabama’s distributors, grocers and package stores spoke in opposition to Collins’ and Singleton’s bills.

Wednesday, Sen. J.T. “Jabo” Waggoner, R-Vestavia Hills, chairman of a 2019 direct wine shipment task force, presented his own direct wine shipment legislation, SB281, during a Senate Tourism Committee public hearing.

A representative of state distributors expressed support for Waggoner’s legislation, saying it doesn’t “cause harm to stakeholders in Alabama or disrupt the 3-tier system (manufacturer – in this case wineries – to distributor/wholesaler to retailers).”

Waggoner’s bill creates a wine direct shipper license that allows wine to be shipped directly to consumers in Alabama by wineries that produce less than 50,000 gallons of wine each year and have a federal basic wine manufacturing permit. Each winery or manufacturer could ship up to 12 cases of wine annually per household. Shipments would be limited to those 21 or older and shipping without a permit would be a Class C misdemeanor.

The filing fee would be $250 for those not already licensed as a wine manufacturer in Alabama. Already-licensed Alabama wineries would not have to pay the additional $250 for a direct shipper license.

Sen. Rodger M. Smitherman, D-Birmingham, cautioned members of the committee to be “careful about treating products from out of state differently than those produced in state.”

SMALL WINERIES DIRECT SALES AND SELF-DISTRIBUTION
Earlier this session, the Senate Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry Committee approved legislation that would allow Alabama’s small farm wineries to self-distribute their wines to retailers and sell directly to consumers. The Senate has not yet considered SB89 by Sen. Andrew Jones, R-Centre.

As substituted and amended by the committee, SB89 would allow wineries that produce fewer than 25,000 gallons of wine annually or make at least half of its wine from produce grown in Alabama to sell up to 10,000 gallons directly to retailers licensed to sell alcoholic beverages. Under the bill, farm wineries could deliver to retailers via third-party common carriers.

SB89 also allows farm wineries to sell directly to consumers for on- or off-premise consumption at the winery as long as it remits sales taxes to the state and local governments.

Another bill, HB306 by Rep. Laura Hall, D-Huntsville, would allow self-distribution and direct sales to consumers for Madison County’s small wineries only. The Madison County Legislation Committee has yet to consider the bill.

OTHER WINE LEGISLATION

  • The Senate Tourism Committee on Tuesday, Feb. 18, amended and approved legislation to allow tastings and the sale of wine at authorized wine festivals. SB87 by Sen. Andrew Jones, R-Centre, awaits consideration by the full Senate.
  • HB52 would clarify that no separate retail license is needed for sales at a winery or tasting room. It awaits consideration by the House Economic Development and Tourism Committee.

OTHER ALCOHOL-RELATED LEGISLATION

Faunsdale Sunday sales, Orange Beach and Gulf Shores entertainment districts, plus other general alcohol legislation

This article is part of the Alabama Retail Report, a communication for Alabama Retail Association members. Not a member? Join us!

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