Friday, March 20, 2009

Obit written again on Md. direct-shipping bill

The note came Friday morning from Adam Borden, who became one of the principal spokesmen for a bill that would allow Maryland wineries to ship their product directly to home. It was brief, to the point.


And so another attempt to allow Maryland wineries to ship wine by mail was denied. How many of there been? Might be 11 years; might be 12. Certainly it's an issue that has come up numerous times, found intense resistence by the Maryland wholesalers and retailers, and died on the vine. Borden wrote later that he's know more by the end of the weekend or the first of next week about how close they came and how much progress they made over last year. Any gains, he suggested, will help prepare for another fight next year.

Kevin Atticks is the executive director of the Maryland Wine Association. Reached earlier this week, he had lost some of the optimism he had before the hearings began. That when he was talking about Maryland being one of five states that were reviewing their direct shipping laws. Another is
New Jersey. He was hopeful that by the end of the wrangling, all five bills would pass and the total of states that permitted direct shipping would reach 40. Well, make that 39 now. Actually, if you want to acquaint yourself with how each state handled the issue of direct shipping, click on this link.

"It's a wait and see," Atticks said on the phone on Monday. "No news in this business is not good news. We're just waiting [to hear]."

The news ended a whirlwind month for Borden, who said a couple of weeks ago in an initial conversation that he runs a venture capital fund that invests in specialty food companies. While he was taking the reins of this grassroots movement to overturn the wine laws, Borden was also waiting for news from home that he pregnant wife was going into labor. On Feb. 18 he was testifying in the Senate until around 6:30 p.m. The baby was born the next day, before noon. Mom and child came home on Sunday, the 22nd, he said. On the 23rd he was back in Annapolis giving more testimony.

Bosden's predecessor, Atticks said, left the state and moved to Texas, "a beautiful wide-open state where you can get anything [shipped] you want." Speaking to Borden a few times over the past few weeks, he obviously has learned a lot nis his first year directing this consumer effort, particularly about the obstacles that exist when it comes to getting free shipping passed. What galls him the most are the figures that show how much he says the state is losing, let alone what the wineries aren't getting in revenue and what consumers are being denied in terms of convenience.

The current process, he said, is so convulated that "in the six years that this program has been in effect, there have been six wineries that have participated in this program, none I've ever heard of, and the state has collected a whopping $140 [in fees].

"Just to put in perspective, New Hampshire last year alone collected $520,000 via is direct ship program and that doesn't even include a sales tax because they don't have one," he said, his voice more awah in frustration the longer he talked about the past few weeks. "So that's just permit fee and excise tax. So it's clearly been very unsuccessful . . . and it has been so because of the process. No one in their right mind would go through this process."

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