The California Legislature reconvenes on August 17, 2015 for four weeks to conclude its session for the year.
Family Winemakers of California monitors and lobbies a variety of public policy issues on behalf of its members. Legislation ranging from changes to the tied-house laws (the state’s alcohol laws that were crafted after Prohibition), fees and taxes, business regulations, and environmental issues that affect winery and vineyard operations must be identified, their impact gauged and action taken.
The scope of the effort is significant. Each year the California Legislature introduces over 2,000 bills.
Family Winemakers screened over 2,200 bills and identified 37 priority bills for the 2015-16 Legislative Session. A similar number of bills are likely to be introduced in early 2016. We're supporting AB 780 (Williams) to remedy the social media marketing problems that deal with naming retailers, and how to extend more tied-house advertising exceptions. FWC is also supporting tied-house advertising exceptions for BottleRock and Del Mar Fairgrounds. The challenges ahead will continue to be water availability and its beneficial use, taxation, and farm labor.
Policy committee hearings are in full swing in the second house for bills that have survived. They must be approved by July 17 to continue on. The 2015-16 budget has been signed along with a slew of trailer bills. Several affect wineries by requiring diversion gauges and monitoring, release of public well log information, and hefty water fines.
State agencies, such as the Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control, the Department of Food & Agriculture, and departments within the California Environmental Protection Agency that regulate business activities, formulate new regulations based on recent laws or update old regulations. In addition, Family Winemakers monitors and acts on initiatives pursued by these agencies and regional regulatory bodies, as well as federal actions by the Tax and Trade Bureau.
Our ongoing engagement in the 14-year Pierce’s Disease Control Program, which contains the spread of the Glassy-winged Sharpshooter while critical research on protecting grapevines is a priority. Growers extended the program and industry assessment until March 2021 in a recently concluded referendum. FWC partnered with others in the wine industry to conduct the successful "Yes" campaign.
FWC has engaged the State Water Resources Control Board about the implementation of the new General Industrial Permit for stormwater to help with wine industry compliance. We've ramped up outreach because it appears that many wineries are unaware of the new permit, which is effective July 1, 2015. Filing are required by August 14, 2015, unless you qualify for a No Exposure Certificate, which is due by October 1, 2015. FWC has also consulted with Regional Water Quality Control Board 2 on a pending General Order for winery Waste Discharge Requirements.
FWC is opposing a regulatory initiative being pushed by CalEPA to change Proposition 65 warning signs, add new warning language, and present additional, potentially non-scientific information on exposures through a new state website. A new alcohol warning sign will burden retailers with two signs. One would satisfy the recent court settlement and the new one would cover all producers not part of the suit. Logistically, it will be a burden on producers not grandfathered in under the old sign to cost-effectively get the new signs to all retailers. In addition, FWC was engaged in the heat illness regulatory proposal. Changes are effective May 1, 2015.
California State Capitol Building