Only a few days after the Massachusetts legislature passed a controversial bill that would have allowed some small wineries outside the state to ship to Massachusetts residents, Gov. Mitt Romney (R) vetoed the bill. Since the legislature is not currently in session, it's unclear when the matter will be revisited.
"This bill does not give wine lovers the opportunity to purchase the bottlings they want," Romney said in a statement issued today.
The bill, if signed, would have permitted both in-state and out-of-state wineries to ship to Massachusetts consumers, but only if the wineries produce less than 30,000 gallons of wine per year and only if they have not been represented in the state by a wholesaler for at least the past six months. That would leave out larger wineries that produce small lots of certain wines that are not widely distributed.
"It was because of those restrictions that the governor vetoed the bill," said Eric Fehrnstrom, Romney's communications director. "It makes sense to have a regulatory framework for this type of activity to take place," he added. "But the legislature's bill seemed to protect the wholesaler monopoly at the expense of consumer choice."
"We're pleased that the governor agreed with our position, which is that this doesn't solve the issue at hand, which was consumer access," said Steve Gross, head of state relations for the San Francisco-based Wine Institute. The association of California wineries encourages states around the country to pass shipping regulation that allow all wineries to ship, regardless of their size or wholesaler representation, as long as they follow safeguards to prevent sales to minors. "We feel the final bill as it was passed was much more about protecting the wholesalers than taking care of the consumers. We're pleased with the veto; we hope it's upheld."
Whether it will be is anyone's guess, as Democrats, who largely backed the measure, hold enough seats in the legislature to override Romney's veto should they choose to hold a special session and consider the matter. If they don't, the veto will stand until the legislature reconvenes in January. In the meantime, organizations such as Free The Grapes!, which support direct shipping, will continue to ask consumers to contact their representatives to ask for less-restrictive regulations.
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