July 25, 2013
Will Pennsylvanians soon be able to have a cabernet sauvignon or a Riesling from California shipped straight to their door?
Despite the bruising battle in the Legislature over privatization of state wine and spirit stores, allowing direct shipment of wine to consumers seems to have more bipartisan support.
A bill to allow direct shipment of wine was approved nearly unanimously in the House last month; a similar bill passed the Senate last year.
“I think that’s something where there’s widespread agreement,” said Erik Arneson, a spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi, R-Delaware. Mr. Arneson said a bill could pass the Senate this fall, “depending on the overall direction of the liquor discussion.”
Gov. Tom Corbett has promised to return to his push for privatization, one of his top legislative priorities.
Wine shipment is not perceived as a partisan issue in the same way privatization is, said Rep. Paul Costa, D-Wilkins. A privatization bill passed the House in March on a mostly party-line vote.
Mr. Costa has sponsored direct shipment legislation in several previous sessions.
“It’s helping small businesses,” Mr. Costa said. “Our wineries are family-run businesses.”
Forty-one states allow some form of direct wine shipment, according to WineAmerica, the National Organization of American Wineries.
“The two big states that are holdouts are Pennsylvania and Massachusetts,” said Michael Kaiser, a spokesman for WineAmerica.
Currently, wineries that want to ship directly to Pennsylvania consumers must obtain a special “limited winery” license from the state’s Liquor Control Board. Only a handful of wineries outside the state have such a license, according to the PLCB.
The board is supportive of a bill allowing direct shipment, to improve consumer convenience and selection, said Stacy Kriedeman, spokeswoman for the PLCB.
“This is what consumers have been asking for. If they are out in California and they find something they love, it would be a real benefit for them to get that shipped to their home,” she said.
The bill would allow a winery to ship any quantity of wine into the commonwealth, directly to a consumer who is at least 21 years of age. The winery must collect the 6 percent sales tax and the 18 percent Johnstown Flood Tax and remit these taxes to the Department of Revenue, according to a memo seeking co-sponsors for the bill.
Direct shipment doesn’t face opposition from the union of state store workers that fought privatization efforts.
Wendell Young IV, president of the United Food and Commercial Workers Local 1776, said his organization supports direct shipment as long as the state is collecting the appropriate taxes and shippers are making sure buyers are of age, which the legislation does.
“We have supported it as a way to provide better service [to consumers],” Mr. Young said. “But I think you’ll find very few people that actually do it. I think the better values are found in the [state] system.”
A spokesman for the Pennsylvania Wineries Association could not be reached.
Mr. Kaiser noted Pennsylvania is among the top 10 wine-producing states in the U.S.
“A lot of wineries want [Pennsylvania] to open up, so they can ship to those consumers,” he said.
Source: Pittsburgh Post-Gazette