The House has passed legislation upping limits on wine containers, allowing Floridians to purchase larger bottles.
Rep. Chip LaMarca‘s proposal (HB 6073) would repeal a state ban on wine sales in containers larger than a gallon. The House voted 112-3 to approve the measure Thursday, with Republican Rep. Clay Yarborough and Democratic Reps. James Bush and Kevin Chambliss dissenting.
The chamber has now passed the measure three years in a row.
“Now’s the time to remove barriers to the free market and stop protecting one company in the state of Florida,” LaMarca told House members.
Howey-in-the-Hills Republican Rep. Anthony Sabatini, one of the bill’s sponsors who identified himself as the House’s lone former wine salesman, urged lawmakers to finally overcome that winery. LaMarca strayed away from naming the company he and Sabatini say has been holding up legislation during discussions Wednesday, but Sabatini wasn’t as shy.
“It happens to be the only wine company of which I don’t want more than a gallon of,” Sabatini said. “That’s Gallo Wines. It’s very bad wine. Please vote for this bill.”
He also called the measure “one of the best pieces of criminal justice reform” in the House this session.
The criminal penalty for selling oversized wine containers, currently a second degree misdemeanor, comes with fines and even potential jail time.
“Right now, if you buy wine in a container larger than one gallon, you can receive 60 days in jail,” Sabatini said. “We need to get rid of these absurd and arbitrary wine limits and start drinking more wine.”
He also invited House members to the new coffee shop and wine bar across the street from the Capitol, La Florida, for a glass after the floor session.
The impact of this legislation on small business is a matter of some debate even among legislative staffers.
One committee analysis suggested it “may have a positive fiscal impact on businesses that sell wine.” It will not impact costs for local or state governments, the analysis supposes.
Distributors and manufacturers face no quantity cap when selling wine to each other, and this bill would give the consumer parity with those parties with presumably greater purchasing power.
A comparable bill from Sen. Jeff Brandes (SB 142) is stalled in that chamber’s committee process.