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Patrick would sign wine bill, he says

Christmas may have arrived early for Bay State oenophiles.

Governor Deval Patrick may have inadvertently revived an issue that has flummoxed Bay State policy makers for years, as he lent support yesterday to a bill that would permit Massachusetts consumers to order direct wine shipments from out of state.

“I would sign that bill if it came,’’ he said during an appearance on WTKK radio in response to a question from a caller who identified himself as Dan from Franklin and said he was frustrated by restrictions on commerce.

Although the US Supreme Court struck down state laws in 2006 that bar consumers from ordering wine shipments, Massachusetts is one of 12 states that have yet to comply. In fact, a Bay State effort to amend its laws in response to the decision was itself struck down in January 2010, the result of restrictions that lawmakers built into the law to protect local wineries from competition.

Patrick said he has examined the issue in previous years, but said lawmakers had shown little interest.


“If you visit a vineyard in New York or California, you can’t have it shipped to Massachusetts,’’ he said, noting that the only way around the law is to receive wine shipments through local retailers.

Bills sanctioning wine shipments in Massachusetts are awaiting action in the Committee on Consumer Protection and Professional License. The proposals - one backed by House Minority Leader Bradley H. Jones Jr., another by state Representative David M. Torrisi, Democrat of North Andover - would allow the state’s Alcoholic Beverages Control Commission to license out-of-state wineries to ship products to Massachusetts residents. Licensees would be assessed $100 per year, and shipments would be capped at 24 cases per resident per year.

“Hopefully the governor’s comments will encourage more legislators and more residents to speak up,’’ Torrisi said in a phone interview. “Maybe the governor’s comments today will push the committee to release the bill favorably so we can get at it right after the New Year.’’


The committee cochairman, Representative Theodore C. Speliotis, described the proposal as a good bill, although he acknowledged having concerns about the ability to ensure that those receiving shipments are over 21. But he said worries about competition from out-of-state wine sellers have faded as more and more consumers make all types of purchases online.

He said the bill would give the state “the ability to enter this century in which people routinely shop online, as long as we have the protections in place to make sure we’re not exposing children . . . to purchases.’’