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Senator Bill Dodd. (Photo: Kevin Sanders for California Globe)

New Senate Bill Would Allow Businesses, Non-Profits Ability to Conduct Wine Auctions

Legislation would also expand the number of allowed auctions a year, and lengthen auction times by nearly two weeks

By Evan Symon, February 15, 2022 4:31 pm

A bill that would allow businesses and non-profit groups the ability to conduct online wine auctions and would expand the parameters of current online auctions in terms of length and how many that can be conducted a year, was announced on Monday.

The as of yet unnumbered bill, authored by Senator Bill Dodd (D-Napa), would specifically apply expanding wine auctions for registered non-profits and trade organizations. Under the bill, auctions can also now be held more than once a year by these groups, with auctions allowed to go up to 15 days, instead of the two day rule under current law.

Senator Dodd wrote the bill as a means to increase fundraising, helping hard hit wine growing areas recover quicker with auctions by generating more funds, and as a way to keep up with the numerous, more-online focused changes that occurred during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Expanding the ability to hold these online auctions makes perfect sense given the technology that has emerged during the pandemic to keep us safe,” said Senator Dodd in a statement on Monday. “My bill would allow groups to step up this much-needed fundraising, improving our economy and charitable giving.”

While no other lawmakers have either come out for or against the bill yet, support has already been coming through from vintner organizations and non-profit groups.

“This bill supports the evolution of non-profit fundraising auctions which include the sale of wine or beer, to now occur over a multi-day period, which is needed in today’s robust e-commerce landscape and ultimately allows for expanded fundraising potential for all non-profits,” noted Napa Valley Vintners CEO Linda Reiff.

“The bill seems inconsequential, but the implications of it get interesting,” said Becky Thomas, a pollster who covers several wine-centric counties in Northern California, to the Globe on Tuesday. “A lot of wine growers right now are pretty mad at water restrictions and seeing many farmers having to sell. Specifically they noticed Democrats being behind the water restrictions for agricultural use. It’s largely due to the ongoing drought, but farmers still say that it’s all unfair to them.”

“So many wine vintners and grape farmers, as well as other agricultural areas that normally lean more left like marijuana and hemp growers, have been veering right, either starting to support more moderate Democrats or Republicans who have called for more water and other resources for farmers and growers. Republicans have been welcoming this, but Democrats don’t want the embarrassment of losing ground in wine counties in the Bay Area and, perhaps more critically, the Central Valley.”

“Vintners are by no means the largest industry in many of these places, but they are a big part, and in places like Napa, still the signature industry for the county. Sonoma too. By giving winemakers and businesses surrounding it the ability to auction off wine online, a small concession like that can go a big way. An auction by a non-profit online to sell some wine, again, seems so tiny and minute. But all these little things add up for hard hit winemakers, and this is another small piece to combat against water reductions and seeing nearby reservoirs hitting new lows.”

Dodd’s bill is expected to be formally introduced in the Senate soon.

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