Direct wine shipments on deck for Md. Senate vote

The Washington Examiner posted the article below about the actions that Sen. Robert A. Zirkin has taken to get the direct wine shipping bill out of committee so legislators can vote on it:

Direct wine shipments on deck for Md. Senate vote

By: Hayley Peterson
Examiner Staff
March 23, 2010

Maryland lawmakers are making last-ditch efforts to lift the state's ban on wine shipments before the 2010 General Assembly session ends next month.

Bills that would end the ban remain tied up in committee, but Sen. Robert A. Zirkin, D-Baltimore County, has managed to induce floor debate on the issue with an amendment to an unrelated bill that would permit wine shipments. The Senate plans to take up the issue Tuesday.

Changing the law would increase state revenue by $90,000 from licensing fees in fiscal 2011, according to a fiscal analysis. More than 100 lawmakers from both houses support ending the ban, but the state's powerful liquor lobbyists are suspected to be puppeteering the vote with campaign donations to keep consumers buying locally.

"Our leaders fear angering what is arguably the most generous political patron in the state at a time that every incumbent delegate and senator desperately needs campaign funds," Adam Borden, former executive director of Marylanders for Better Beer and Wine Laws, wrote in a March 5 resignation letter to his supporters. Borden said he resigned because his "aggressive" lobbying tactics were turning away supporters.

In Montgomery County, lawmakers say they are concerned that lifting the ban would crush the county's Department of Liquor Control, which has sole control over the local liquor market.

But Zirkin said Montgomery residents are already dodging the ban by shipping wine to D.C.

"The arguments against this are ludicrous," he said.

Opponents also argue that lifting the ban would make it easier for underage youths to obtain alcohol.

Zirkin called that a hollow argument. "I don't see a lot of teenagers running around trying to get a bottle of Merlot," he said.

Zirkin's amendment would allow for direct wine shipments not to exceed two-dozen 12-bottle cases annually to Maryland residents. The law would require the signature of someone 21 years of age or older upon delivery. Wineries would pay the state comptroller $300 for every Maryland shipping license.

Zirkin attached his amendment to a bill sponsored by Sen. Joan Carter Conway, D-Baltimore, who has long opposed lifting the state's ban.

Conway's bill would allow wineries to sell alcohol at farmers markets. Her bill was expected to pass without much debate before the addition of Zirkin's amendment.

"This wasn't meant to kill [Conway's] bill," Zirkin said. "I just wanted to get the [wine shipment] bill out of committee so we could vote on it."

Read more at the Washington Examiner:

Wineries with Permits

Wineries Able to Ship to MD

Here is a link to the Comptroller's website. Search for "DW-Direct Wine Shippers Permit" under permit type.

Search for wineries


Please Donate to MBBWL

Subscribe to MBBWL's Newsletter