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Legislature supports wine in grocery stores

PENN YAN—The vote to support the Wine industry and Liquor Store Revitalization Act was passed by the Yates County Legislature April 12. If enacted by New York State, the law would allow sale of wine in grocery stores. The proposed change is expected to increase revenue for New York state as well as localities.
Prior to the vote, legislators heard comments from both sides of the issue. Peter Martini, president of Yates County Farm Bureau and vineyard manager for Martini Vineyards, told legislators outlets in 35 other states that allow wine sales in grocery stores have proven that both liquor stores and grocery stores thrive and survive, adding, “It would give all small wineries opportunities to sell to more outlets.” He said, “I know change can be difficult. It’s time to end prohibition-type laws. I urge the legislature to take positive steps for Yates County and the state.”
Liquor store owner Ray Spencer began by stating, “I don’t consider this an us against them.” He went on to say over 100 wineries in New York State are opposed to this type of change, maintaining over 1,000 small independents would go out of business.” Winery owner Ted Marks said, “We’re not about to run liquor stores out of business.” Marks said the liquor store owner decides which wines to carry, adding, “I need the right to sell my wines in other places.”
Legislature chairman Taylor Fitch called grape growing one of the largest segments of agriculture in Yates County, adding, “The current resolution seeks to help growers and wineries and hopes to eliminate antiquated laws regarding liquor stores. I think it is the right thing to do. It’s very important to support our local agriculture.”
Legislator Steve Webster cast the lone no vote. After the meeting he said, “That’s just the way I feel.”
In other business: Legislator Mark Morris proposed the current lodging tax be amended to exclude vacation rentals, suggesting it could be returned if surrounding counties add this type of tax. Fitch said the reasons for the tax is to take the cost of tourism promotion off the backs of taxpayers and to create additional revenue for tourism promotion. He said motels and bed and breakfast operations consider vacation rentals as competition to them and many are operated as a business. Currently motels and bed and breakfast operations charge a tax. Fitch ended, “That’s the opposing side of the argument.” The motion failed with two votes in support of amending the tax.
• The legislature voted to oppose a New York State Legislature bill that mandates farm labor requirements. Martini said the law would make the laws in New York State the strictest in the country, adding, “It would be devastating to New York State.” Martini maintained workers’ hours would be cut and a tight labor market would be tightened more if it passed. The law proposes regulations on overtime pay, hours, collective bargaining and other issues. The resolution noted no other states have such comprehensive labor mandates for agricultural workers since there are significant federal laws that regulate the migrant labor stream and provide fair labor standards for agricultural employment for all farm workers.
• The agreement for additional remedial investigation work at the Penn Yan Marine Manufacturing Corp. site was approved. Due to additional state requirements the contract amount was increased by $10,000 to a total of $77,500.
• The board heard an update on activities of Keuka Housing Council from Kathy Disbrow and Renee Bloom.
• Legislators recognized Sgt. Francis Ryan as Yates County Deputy Sheriff of the Year.
• Patrick Newby was recognized as New York State Marine Officer of the Year. He was nominated for his extraordinary life savings efforts on Keuka Lake in June 2009.
• The week of April 18 to 24 was designated National Crime Victims’ Rights Week.
• Robert Curbeau was named to the Empire Zone board.
• Members were appointed to the Yates County EMS Advisory Board for terms ending Dec. 31.
The next meeting of the Yates County Legislature will be at 6:30 p.m. May 10 in legislative chambers in the Yates County office building on Liberty Street in Penn Yan. The change in time is part of a trial period of evening meetings planned to make it easier for the public to attend.

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