July 28, 2014 | Jim Agger
After years of parochial wrangling, the Massachusetts Legislature has passed a bill that will allow out-of-state winemakers and vintners to process online wine sales and ship it to the East Coast, but not without a cost. Not only does the taxing mentality of Beacon Hill lawmakers enter into the equation - winemakers must pay $300 just for a permit to do business in the Commonwealth - but a sales tax must be paid by the consumer. There's also an excise tax of 55 cents per gallon of wine that is paid by the wholesaler and passed on to the retail market.
Shipping protocols being established
According to the Boston Globe, wine shipping to the Bay State could face some difficult obstacles if the legislature and the Alcoholic Beverages Control Commission don't change some archaic fulfillment regulations that have been on the books since prohibition. Each truck that delivers wine is subject to a special permit and fee. In most states, said the Globe, one fee covers each shipping operation. In Massachusetts, shipping companies must pay the fee for each truck delivering alcohol, which could cause prospective shipping operations to opt out of delivering online purchased wine to customers. One lawmaker who sponsored the wine-shipping bill has now introduced legislation to eliminate the individual truck fee for a fleet-wide permit program. Current truck permitting fees, according to the source, are $200 dollars apiece and could push delivery charges very high.
Former New England Patriot quarterback, Drew Bledsoe, is a vineyard owner and winemaker from Washington State and he lobbied hard and effectively for the new law. He told Boston Magazine in a Tweet on social media that the news was gratifying.
"This is great news!" said Bledsoe. "[I'm] excited that we can start shipping in January."
January 1, 2015 is the first day wine shipping to Massachusetts can begin.
While the former gridiron star isn't taking any credit for the measure's passage, it is his lobbying effort last year that some have said was the final push. Bledsoe had testified that he couldn't ship samples of his product to friends and teammates, like Tom Brady, and he was hoping that would change.
"Tom actually bought the wine, and he shipped it to his dad's house (in California)," reported Bledsoe to the Associated Press, as quoted by NewsDaily. However, Brady never got to sample the wine. His father finished it off before the quarterback and his wife could arrive to taste it.
Legislature is pushing
Ted Speliotis is the state representative who authored the bill to allow shipping and is pursuing the measure to change the truck permitting. He told Boston Magazine that one license per shipping fleet as opposed to each truck is the way to go.
"I know there's some legislation here that I think is going to be coming to me out of the Ways and Means Committee. It would create a $3,500 fleet license rather than an individual license, and I am very supportive of that," explained Speliotis.
Massachusetts Governor, Deval Patrick, signed off on the measure contained in the FY 2015 budget, bringing the Bay State - rated the fourth highest consumer state in the nation's wine drinking archives - to the forefront of a new, money-making venture.
There is no word to date on whether the shipping measure will make it to a vote before the first of the year, but the Governor has indicated he would sign the bill, as well, should it make it to his desk..