Consumers in Wisconsin can now have up to three cases of wine per year shipped directly to their homes, as part of the new state budget signed by Gov. James Doyle (D) on July 25. Under the old law, Wisconsin's wine enthusiasts were limited to a total of one case annually, whether the wine was shipped from within or outside the state.
"It's not a huge change, but it is a change," said Steve Gross, head of state relations for the Wine Institute, which pushed for the line item in the budget. "We are always watching for opportunities to be able to insert language that would be beneficial to our members. As a freestanding bill, it would have been much harder to get any change to the direct-shipping provisions through."
It may not be long before the state's laws have to change again. Wisconsin is one of 14 states that have reciprocal direct-shipping laws (the latest to adopt a reciprocity statute is North Dakota), which allow wineries to ship to residents in other reciprocal states without having to buy an annual permit or pay taxes associated with the sale. But those laws have been under a microscope since the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in May that states' shipping laws cannot treat in-state and out-of-state wineries differently, declaring the practice discriminatory.
"There are those who interpreted the Supreme Court decision to say that you could question the validity of reciprocity statutes because they're site-based," Gross explained. "We are working in various states to shore up the statutes, and in some cases that's going to mean replacing a reciprocity statute with a permit bill."
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