Giving Gift Shops a Gift

June 20, 2011

Connecticut’s economy is built on small businesses that provide our state with great jobs and services. During the 2011 legislative session, the General Assembly voted on a measure that will support many of these businesses through an expansion of their services, helping them to remain competitive and profitable.

In the final hours of the legislative session, the members of the state senate cast a unanimous vote marking the final passage of House Bill 6267, An Act Concerning the Sale of Wine with Gift Baskets. This bill lifts limitations and opens the door to many of your state’s gift shops. Under current state statute, the sale of wine in gift baskets is prohibited. For years, out-of-state businesses have been able ship wine baskets into Connecticut, but Connecticut businesses have not been permitted to ship or sell the same, in-state or out. However, this new measure gives gift basket retailers the option to now include wine if they acquire a new type of liquor permit. Obtaining an annual permit – for a fee of $200 – will allow retailers to include wine from Connecticut package stores or farm wineries in gift baskets.

As these baskets are often shipped throughout the state or to other states, safety restrictions have been included in the bill. The retailers must place a shipping label on the basket stating ‘contains alcohol – signature of a person age 21 or older required for delivery,’ and then must obtain a valid signature of a person of age to legally consume alcohol.

Beginning in early February at a public hearing, business owners and constituents began testifying on the bill. Most came out to voice opinions in support of allowing wine to be sold in gift baskets. One man, a Simsbury resident and owner of a Beacon Falls florist and fruit basket company for more than 40 years, highlighted this bill as a proactive way to establish ‘equity and fairness.’ He named multiple out-of-state companies that he has lost business to over the years and said that passing House Bill 6267 would level the playing field. The President of the Connecticut Farm Bureau Association also advocated for the measure stating that it is a positive step for Connecticut’s vineyards and that it will lead to increased revenue for the state – a benefit to the state’s economy.

If at first you don’t succeeded, try try again. I did just that in this case. After three years of trying to get this bill passed, I was finally able to get this bill through both chambers of the General Assembly with a unanimous, favorable vote. Once signed by the governor, this new law will take effect July 1, 2011.

Our goal is to keep revenue and good business in state to boost our economy. Although this may seem like a small measure, it is one that accomplishes that goal by placing Connecticut gift basket retailers in direct competition with out-of-state companies who have long offered wine as a part of a basket. It also ensures a benefit to Connecticut package stores and vineyards by expanding their profits. In particular, this will be a gain for our state’s wineries as it directly increases their field of recognition when wine is shipped to folks outside the state.

Measures such as these are constructive actions to reverse the state’s anti-business reputation and will go a long way towards assuring that good, family owned businesses remain a part of our communities. House Bill 6267 rights a wrong against Connecticut’s retailers, and now, hundreds of small companies around the state can benefit from this new legislation. I am proud to have introduced the measure, and going forward will continue my efforts to look out for Connecticut businesses.