Washington Wine Rules in Limbo
Governor suspends rulemaking for a year; Canada may liberalize interprovincial shipping
Gregoire’s office issued a statement announcing the order Nov. 17. It directs state agencies to suspend development and the adoption of new rules except in cases of public health, safety and welfare, or where “the rule is required by federal or state law, required by a court order, or critically necessary to manage budget shortfalls, maintain fund solvency or for revenue generating activities.” The order suspends rulemaking through Dec. 31, 2011.
“The time and effort small business owners would put into meeting new requirements would be better spent in improving their bottom line and adding new employees. This action will also allow local governments to focus their limited resources on the most critical issues in their communities,” Gregoire stated.
The suspension eliminates a potential avenue for the Washington Wine Institute (WWI) to resolve issues impacting the state’s wine industry. Two rules in progress at the Washington State Liquor Control Board were tabled as a result of the executive order.
One was a request by wholesalers to allow split-case charges on wine orders. WWI was happy to put this request on the back burner and praised the executive order for providing, “some much-needed stability for wineries currently grasping to keep up with changing regulations.”
The second was WWI’s own examination of exactly which winery personnel require an agent’s license. The current interpretation of relevant legislation requires that all winery personnel who sell wine—except sole proprietors—must be licensed.
“One avenue for resolving it has been removed,” Jean Leonard, WWI’s executive director, told Wines & Vines. She added, “The Washington Wine Institute intends to continue to work on potential issues regarding the requirements for an agent’s license.” The executive order in Washington state will likely push some rulemaking issues onto the legislative agenda.
Canadian wine may flow between provinces
Cannan’s initiative, if successful, would trump various moves by Canada’s provincial liquor boards during the past two years to restrict interprovincial shipments and direct-to-consumer sales of wine by wineries (see “Canada Warns Inter-Province Shippers”).
Cannan’s initiative has the support of various wine industry groups, including the British Columbia Wine Institute and Canadian Vintners Association as well as the newly formed Association of Canadian Wine Consumers, led by Shirley-Ann George, formerly senior vice-president, policy, at the Canadian Chamber of Commerce (which also backs the initiative).