Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Modernization wouldn't do what the consumer wants

We've been told that what the State Stores, the PLCB, and the whole police-enforced monopoly really needs is a good dose of "modernization." No need to dismantle this freak of nature; just "modernize" it!

Hey, how about some perks?
Let's look at one part of “modernization,” Direct Wine Shipping, and see what is being offered compared to what Pennsylvania citizens really want. Representative Costa said recently that direct shipping would be, and I quote, a “perk” for consumers. Why after all this time do the politicians and PLCB even care about direct wine shipping? Is it because they suddenly thought it would be good for consumers? No, it is because the Supreme Court Of The United States told them they had to allow all wineries, in-state and out, the same freedom in shipping. That was the Granholm decision, almost NINE YEARS ago, and our legislature still can’t comply. Strictly speaking, in my opinion, the failure of the legislature pretty much means it is currently legal to have wine shipped to your door since the section of the PA liquor code imposing restriction was deemed illegal and therefore unenforceable.

Representative Costa, 8 years later, decided he wants to support direct wine shipping and the bill he co-sponsored (HB 121) lists a fair amount of requirements to allow that in PA. Here are some of them.

(1) File an application with the board.
(2) Pay a one hundred dollar ($100) registration fee.
(3) Provide to the board a true copy of the applicant's current alcoholic beverage license issued by the board or another state, if applicable.
(4) Provide documentation to the board which evidences that the applicant has obtained a sales tax license from the Department of Revenue.
(5) Provide the board with any other information that the board deems necessary and appropriate.

Now that doesn’t seem too bad. But read on.

(6) Each month, the board shall publish on the Internet a list of all classes, varieties and brands of wine available for sale in the Pennsylvania Liquor Stores (Apparently all that money on rebranding was wasted, just like we said; if your own pet legislator can't even remember it, what's the point?). A person holding a direct shipper license may ship only those classes, varieties and brands of wine not included on the list at the time an Internet order is placed.
(7) Not ship more than nine liters per month on the Internet order of any person in this Commonwealth
(8) On a quarterly basis, pay to the Department of Revenue all taxes due on sales to residents of this Commonwealth
(9) Report to the board each year the total of wine shipped [into] to residents of this Commonwealth in the preceding calendar year.
(10) Permit the board, the enforcement bureau or the Secretary of Revenue, or their designated representatives, to perform an audit of the [out-of-State] direct wine shipper's records upon request.
(11) Annually renew its license by paying a renewal fee established by the board. (Unknown amount at the time of publication)
(12) A direct shipper may ship wine on the [Internet] order of a resident into this Commonwealth provided that the wine is shipped to a Pennsylvania Liquor Store selected by the resident.

So what we get is "direct shipping" to a State Store, not directly to the customer, and on top of that they want to track what and how much you buy. PA's own little spy network. That is not what the citizens want, no matter how the good representative tries to spin it.

That leads to situations like Arthur David Goldman accused of illegally selling wines not available in PA, providing the goods and services that the PLCB either couldn’t wouldn’t or was too incompetent to provide. Why? Because there hasn’t been any resolution in Pennsylvania of the Granholm decision. If people were able to direct ship then there wouldn’t be the market for somebody to fill with wines not available in the PA system.

How about we do reciprocal shipping, the same way other goods are done within the framework of interstate commerce? We don’t charge unnecessary fees or taxes to out of state wineries whose states don’t charge us any unnecessary fees or taxes. In-state wineries would benefit from increased sales, consumers would benefit because more out of state wineries would decide to ship to PA since they wouldn’t have to go through all the mickey mouse steps that Mr. Costa wants and after all this time PA would finally be in compliance with the Granholm decision.

Direct wine shipping is about 2% of total wine sales except here in PA where it is about nil. Privatizing and removing the PLCB from the equation results in a system that truly benefits the consumer.

We don’t want “perks.” We don’t want crumbs offered by poor half-hearted measures designed to placate and not really improve. We want and deserve better then what is being offered. Read HB 121 for yourself and decide if this is really the direct shipping you want or if a free and private system would do a better job.

Privatization IS Modernization – Accept nothing less.


Albert Brooks said...

As a footnote - the current direct wine shipping law (Act 10 of 2002) has been in place for some time. Can you guess how many wineries have signed up with PA's ridiculous requirements?


That's right in over 10 years 37 out of the thousands of wineries in the US have signed up to ship to PA. That was "modernization" from the PLCB too.

Anonymous said...

Who are you saying is the PLCBs pet?

Lew Bryson said...

That would be Representative [Anonymous].

Albert Brooks said...

I'm not sure I would use the word pet unless you meant female dog.

Anonymous said...

Each month, the board shall publish on the Internet a list of all classes, varieties and brands of wine available for sale in the Pennsylvania Liquor Stores (Apparently all that money on rebranding was wasted, just like we said; if your own pet legislator can't even remember it, what's the point?).

I seems you are accusing the writer of the bill. That would be Rep Curt Sonney.

Lew Bryson said...

If you know the answer, why did you ask your less-than-clear question?

John said...

I thought you forgot to put his name in.

Albert Brooks said...

The part you are quoting remained unchanged from the original Act 10 of 2002. It was included word for word in HB 121.

What you seem to be missing is that nobody but Rep Costa has mad THIS direct wine shipping bill as part of his "modernization" plan. He offered no changes or modifications to it when he included it in what he thought modernization should be.

John said...

Rep. Paul Costa didn't write the modernization bill either. That came out of the the other chamber. SB 800, written by Jim Ferlo.

I still don't believe Curt Sonney is the PLCBs pet for writing HB121. Mike Turzai is a cosponsor.

Lots of confusion happening here.