Jim Rosica - 4/115 - SaintPetersBlog

Jim Rosica

Before joining Florida Politics, journalist and attorney James Rosica was state government reporter for The Tampa Tribune. He attended journalism school in Washington, D.C., working at dailies and weekly papers in Philadelphia after graduation. Rosica joined the Tallahassee Democrat in 1997, later moving to the courts beat, where he reported on the 2000 presidential recount. In 2005, Rosica left journalism to attend law school in Philadelphia, afterwards working part time for a public-interest law firm. Returning to writing, he covered three legislative sessions in Tallahassee for The Associated Press, before joining the Tribune’s re-opened Tallahassee bureau in 2013. He can be reached at jim@floridapolitics.com.

Mike Dew named Secretary of Florida Department of Transportation

As expected, Gov. Rick Scott on Monday named Mike Dew, the Florida Department of Transportation‘s chief of staff, as its next Secretary, effective immediately.

“For six years, Mike has been an integral part of my administration in the Executive Office of the Governor, Florida Department of Corrections and most recently the Florida Department of Transportation,” Scott said in a statement.

“Mike’s hard work and leadership over these years is a testament to his commitment to improve the lives of Florida families,” he added. “During his time as Chief of Staff of the FDOT, we’ve made great strides thanks to a commitment to excellence in infrastructure and historic transportation funding.

“Florida’s world-class transportation system is an engine for economic growth and job creation and I know Mike is absolutely committed to continuing our great work.”

FloridaPolitics.com first told readers that Dew had received a call from the Governor’s Office telling him the job was his.

Dew, who put in for the top spot the morning of the deadline to apply, was Scott‘s external affairs director in 2011-12. He bested the other finalists: Florida Transportation Commissioner Ron Howse and former FDOT assistant secretary Richard Biter.

The open position was created when former Secretary Jim Boxold resigned in January to join Tallahassee’s Capital City Consulting firm.

Dew also worked on John McCain‘s 2008 presidential campaign and President George W. Bush‘s 2004 re-election.

“It is an honor to be appointed,” Dew said. “Florida is the fastest growing state in the nation and Gov. Scott’s continued focus on our transportation infrastructure is vital not only to our growing population, but to Florida’s booming economy. I look forward to continuing the great work of FDOT and cementing our state as a leader in transportation.”

‘Progress’ on getting marijuana in Special Session but ‘no deal’ yet

Legislative leaders working behind the scenes are getting closer to putting medical cannabis implementation into the call of this week’s Special Session.

For instance, one senator, speaking on condition of anonymity, said “some progress” had been made but there was “no deal” as of Monday afternoon.

When this week’s Wednesday-Friday Special Session was announced last Friday, it only included plans to fund education, tourism marketing and economic development.

That’s despite dozens of lawmakers, including House Speaker Richard Corcoran, who have said the Legislature needs to pass implementing legislation this year for the state’s constitutional amendment on medical marijuana.

Lawmakers came to impasse on a bill during the regular session that ended in May. The biggest sticking point was a cap on the number of retail locations licensed growers could have in the state.

In a memo to House members Friday, Corcoran said the House has “communicated to the … Senate that this is an issue we believe must be addressed and that we are prepared to expand the call.” Senate spokeswoman Katie Betta did not respond to a request for comment Monday.

State Sen. Jeff Brandes, a St. Petersburg Republican, posted on Facebook he has filed the substance for a “comprehensive medical marijuana bill to the legislature’s drafting office … out of an abundance of caution.”

“I remain steadfastly committed to adopting a patient-focused medical marijuana law,” he wrote.

Florida for Care, the group advocating for implementing legislation, sent an email to supporters urging them to contact their legislators to “demand medical marijuana be added to the call for next week’s special session.”

On Friday, Gov. Rick Scott said he would be “supportive” of the Legislature adding it to the call of the Special Session. Agriculture Commissioner and Republican gubernatorial candidate Adam Putnam also has come out in support of addressing marijuana in a Special Session.

The amendment was passed in 2016 by just over 71 percent of statewide voters. An implementing bill gives guidance and instructions to state agencies on how to enforce state law.

No Casinos responds to criticism it’s ‘misinformed’ about casino gambling

The state’s anti-gambling expansion group is pushing back against comments that it’s “misinformed” about casino gambling not being a “meaningful attraction for Florida tourism.”

Steven Norton, a longtime gambling executive and consultant, linked to Nick Sortal‘s Friday column for the Miami Herald in Norton’s Monday email roundup of the gambling scene in the South.

“As I survey the scene nationwide, I think it’s fair to ask the question: Do we have enough casinos already? And, a related question: Do we have enough gambling already?” Sortal wrote.

Sortal later quotes No Casinos president John Sowinski: ““Most people live near a casino. So casinos are no longer a draw to attract tourists.”

In his own commentary, Norton points to Las Vegas: “It’s not just the gaming, but the entire experience… and when people vacation, they have more time to enjoy their favorite pastimes, than when at home. Plus you will find many potential visitors who will not vacation at a resort unless casino gaming is available.

“I understand Disney’s opposition to gaming, not wanting visitors to spend their money away from Disney World or Epcot, but their visitors also have gaming available, being close to America’s top grossing casino resort, the Seminole Hard Rock, down I-4, in Tampa,” Norton adds.

“The Orlando family resorts have to realize that many of their mid-week customers in the fall, winter and spring are in Orlando attending conventions and trade shows, and do not have their children in tow, so casino gaming is an important added attraction.”

Sowinski wasn’t available Monday, but Paul Seago, No Casinos’ executive director, pointed to a report commissioned by the Legislature in 2013—the same one Sowinski mentions in the Herald column—concluding that “even if destination casinos were built, 95 percent of the revenue would be derived from locals.”

Seago also points to a University of Nevada, Las Vegas study that he says “reviews how the attempt to re-brand Las Vegas as ‘family-friendly’ did not end well.”

“Even more than twenty years after the fact, the notion of ‘family Vegas’ stirs up a host of reactions,” the study says. “Some challenge the idea that such an era ever existed.”

The study goes on to quote a 2012 “Vegas Seven” article: “We proudly inform out-of-towners that we’ve been theme-park free for a decade, and that we’re back to the wholesome pursuits—booze, breasts, and blackjack—that we built our name on.”

New deal? Gretna asks court to reconsider slots ruling

Lawyers for a North Florida racetrack have asked the state’s Supreme Court to rehear argument in a case over whether pari-mutuels can add slot machines in counties that passed referendums allowing them.

Gretna Racing‘s motion for rehearing was filed late Friday, court dockets show. The horse track, also known as Creek Entertainment/Gretna, is managed and operated by the Poarch Band of Creek Indians.

Last month, the court unanimously ruled against the track, meaning that gambling facilities in Gadsden County’s Gretna and in seven other counties that passed referendums allowing slots will not be able to offer them.

The court upheld a decision by the 1st District Court of Appeal that agreed with state gambling regulators who denied the track a slots permit.

The ruling was a blow for the state’s pari-mutuels and a win for gambling expansion opponents—if it had gone the other way, the decision might have led to the single biggest gambling expansion in the state.

The opinion, authored by Justice Charles Canady, found that “nothing in (state gambling law) grants any authority to regulate slot machine gaming to any county.”

The track’s 12-page motion counters, in part, that the justices “misapprehended” case law on counties’ home rule authority.

Track lawyer Marc Dunbar, also a part owner, told justices in oral argument last June that the Legislature intended to allow for an expansion of slot machines in the state, saying counties were empowered under state law to decide whether to allow slots.

Lawmakers, many of whom have bitterly complained of judicial overreach into policy, failed to agree on a comprehensive overhaul of the state’s gambling laws this Legislative Session.

As of Monday morning, the court had not responded to the motion. Voters in Brevard, Duval, Gadsden, Hamilton, Lee, Palm Beach, St. Lucie and Washington counties have approved slots.

Rick Scott signs 33 bills into law

Gov. Rick Scott on Friday approved another 33 bills from the 2017 Legislative Session, according to an email from his office.

The official list with descriptions follows:

CS/CS/HB 39 Autism Awareness Training for Law Enforcement Officers – This bill requires the Florida Department of Law Enforcement to enhance Autism Spectrum Disorder training for law enforcement officers.
HB 65 Civil Remedies for Terrorism – This bill creates a civil cause of action for a person injured by an act of terrorism. 
CS/HB 105 Canvassing of Vote-by-Mail Ballots – This bill authorizes the use of a cure affidavit for a vote-by-mail ballot if a voter’s signature does not match the signature in the registration books or precinct registers. This bill also requires supervisors of elections to immediately notify an elector upon receipt of a vote-by-mail ballot with a missing or mismatched signature.
CS/HB 141 Craft Distilleries – This bill allows craft distilleries to sell up to six factory-sealed containers of each branded product in the distiller’s gift shop.
CS/CS/HB 169 Fictitious Name Registration – This bill requires those doing business in Florida under a name other than their legal name to register with the Division of Corporations of the Department of State.
CS/HB 181 Natural Hazards – This bill creates an interagency workgroup under the Florida Division of Emergency Management to share information, coordinate efforts of state agencies and collaborate on the impacts of natural hazards.
HB 207 Agency Inspectors General – This bill prohibits state inspector general contracts from including bonuses for work performance.
CS/CS/HB 209 Medical Faculty and Medical Assistant Certification – This bill expands medical faculty certificates to John Hopkins All Children’s Hospital in St. Petersburg.
CS/HB 211 Cosmetic Product Registration – This bill reduces the regulatory burden on Florida’s cosmetic manufacturers by restructuring fees and eliminating registration requirements for cosmetic products.
CS/CS/HB 241 Alarm Systems – The bill streamlines permitting of low-voltage electric fences and allows alarm monitors to contact law enforcement directly in certain circumstances.
HB 243 Public Records – This bill provides an exemption from public records requirements for personal identifying and location information of certain investigative personnel of Office of Financial Regulation and their spouses and children.
CS/CS/HB 249 Drug Overdoses – This bill creates guidelines for Emergency Medical Services (EMS) to report drug overdoses and requires hospital emergency departments to develop policies to promote the prevention of unintentional drug overdoses.
CS/CS/HB 293 Middle Grades – This bill requires an independent study of other states with high-performing middle school students.
HB 299 Central Florida Expressway Authority – This bill revises provisions governing the Central Florida Expressway Authority to include Brevard County as a member.
CS/HB 6501 Relief of J.D.S. – This bill directs the Florida Agency for Persons with Disabilities to provide $950,000 in relief to J.D.S., a woman victimized while living in an Orange County group home.
CS/HB 6503 Relief of Sean McNamee, Todd McNamee and Jody McNamee by the School Board of Hillsborough County – This bill directs the School Board of Hillsborough County to provide $1.7 million in relief to Sean McNamee and his parents for a severe head injury sustained during football practice at Wharton High School.
CS/HB 6507 Relief of Angela Sanford by Leon County – This bill directs Leon County to provide $1.15 million in relief to Angela Sanford for injuries sustained in a car accident caused by collision with an ambulance.
CS/CS/HB 6511 Relief of L.T. – This bill directs the Florida Department of Children and Families to provide $800,000 in relief to L.T., a child formerly in the care of the Department.
CS/CS/HB 6515 Relief of Wendy Smith and Dennis Darling, Sr. – This bill directs Florida State University to provide $1.8 million in relief to Wendy Smith and Dennis Darling, Sr. for the wrongful death of their son, Devaughn Darling, during preseason football training.
CS/CS/HB 6519 Relief of Amie Draiemann O’Brien, Hailey Morgan Stephenson and Christian Darby Stephenson II – This bill directs the Florida Department of Transportation to provide a total of $1,116,940 in relief to the Estate of Christian Darby Stephenson, Amie Draiemann O’Brien, Hailey Morgan Stephenson, and Christian Darby Stephenson II for the wrongful death of Christian Darby Stephenson.
CS/HB 6521 Relief of Mary Mifflin-Gee by the City of Miami – This bill directs the City of Miami to provide $2.3 million in relief to Mary Mifflin-Gee for a brain injury sustained while in the care of Miami paramedics.
CS/CS/HB 6529 Relief of Lillian Beauchamp by the St. Lucie County School District – This bill directs the St. Lucie County School District to provide $1.5 million in relief to Lillian Beauchamp, for the wrongful death of her son, Aaron Beauchamp.
CS/HB 6539 Relief of Eddie Weekley and Charlotte Williams –This bill directs the Agency for Persons with Disabilities to provide $1 million in relief to Eddie Weekley and Charlotte Williams for the disappearance and wrongful death of their son, Franklin Weekley.
CS/HB 6545 Relief of Jerry Cunningham by Broward County – This bill directs Broward County to provide $550,000 in compensation relief to Jerry Cunningham for injuries sustained from a Broward County bus.
CS/HB 6549 Relief of Altavious Carter and Dustin Reinhardt by the Palm Beach County School Board – This bill directs the Palm Beach County School Board to provide $790,000 in relief to Altavious Carter for injuries sustained in a school bus accident and $4.7 million to Dustin Reinhardt for a head injury sustained in auto shop class at Seminole Ridge High School.
HB 7035 OGSR/Nonpublished Reports and Data/Department of Citrus – This bill removes the October 2, 2017 repeal date for public records exemption of any nonpublished reports or data related to research conducted and funded by the Department of Citrus.
HB 7077 Gulf Coast Economic Corridor –  This bill makes changes to the administration of the money recovered from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill through Triumph Gulf Coast, Inc.
HB 7079 Trust Funds – This bill creates the Triumph Gulf Coast Trust Fund within the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity to administer money recovered from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill through Triumph Gulf Coast, Inc.
HB 7087 OGSR/Protective Injunctions for Certain Types of Violence – This bill continues the public record exemption for the identities and location information of victims of domestic or repeat violence requesting notice of service.
HB 7093 OGSR/Agency Personnel Information –This bill revises and reorders existing public records exemptions for specific classes of personnel to extend protections to their spouses and children and amends the requirements to qualify for the exemptions.
HB 7099 Corporate Income Tax – This bill updates the Florida corporate income tax with last year’s changes in the federal corporate income tax code.
HB 7113 OGSR/Donor or Prospective Donor/Publicly Owned Performing Arts Center – This bill continues the public records exemption for identifying information provided by a donor or a prospective donor to a publicly owned performing arts center if the donor or prospective donor wishes to remain anonymous.
HB 7115 Arthur G. Dozier School for Boys – This bill provides for the care, reinterment and memorialization of remains exhumed from the former Arthur G. Dozier School for Boys, establishes a memorial at the Capitol Complex in Leon County and the former school in Jackson County and preserves the areas known as Boot Hill Cemetery and the White House.  

Rick Scott talks budget, jobs—but not medical marijuana

Gov. Rick Scott talked about education and tourism funding and job training in the upcoming Special Session but did not mention medical marijuana.

Scott spoke briefly with reporters outside an Enterprise Florida meeting in Tallahassee Friday, a few hours after he appeared with legislative leaders in Miami to announce a Special Session next Wednesday-Friday.

“I’ve been talking about this for about seven years now,” he said. “I kept talking about it, and we figured out a way to make sure it’s a win for Florida families … I think everybody wins here: The students win, everybody who wants a better paying job wins.”

Scott said he will veto later Friday the annual education funding bill with the expectation of lawmakers approving a $100-per-student increase in funding across the state.

He expects increased money for his favored agencies, Enterprise Florida and VISIT FLORIDA, which handle economic development and tourism marketing, respectively.

The governor did not mention the need to pass an implementing bill for the state’s constitutional amendment on medical marijuana, despite dozens of lawmakers who have said such guidance still needs to be done this year.

Earlier in the day, he did say he would be “supportive” of the Legislature adding it to the “call” of the Special Session.

It includes creation of a Florida Job Growth Grant Fund to provide $85 million for “public infrastructure and workforce training.”

“It’ll be for rural areas, urban areas,” Scott said. “It’ll (also) be for job training and that money will be spent at our state colleges, so it helps our state colleges.”

Scott also was asked about a contentious education bill (HB 7069) that he said he was still “reviewing” though he has not yet been formally sent the measure by the Legislature. The Florida Education Association has called it a “massive giveaway to charter schools” crafted largely behind closed doors.

He was asked about reports that his expected approval of the bill was part of the deal for next week’s Special Session.

“Well, the only person who would know would be me, right?” Scott said. “… I think it’s important we focus on the education system for all students in our state.”

Adam Putnam fundraising shows ‘grassroots support,’ campaign says

Republican candidate for governor Adam Putnam, who is sitting on $10 million in cash-on-hand from contributions, has released fundraising numbers showing what his campaign calls his “wide range of grassroots support.”

The numbers came in a Thursday email from Amanda Bevis, Putnam’s campaign spokeswoman. He’s now finishing his second term as Florida’s elected agriculture commissioner; he is term-limited in that post in 2018.

He “collected more than $2.1 million in the first month (May) since he filed to run for Governor of Florida, with more than $1.1 million in hard dollar contributions to the Adam Putnam for Governor campaign,” she wrote.

Putnam also has Florida Grown, a separate political committee that can raise funds on its own. He formally kicked off his campaign on May 10, followed by a 10-day, 2,161-mile statewide bus tour.

“The contributions to the campaign came from 2,203 supporters representing all 67 counties in Florida,” Bevis said. “More than 1,714 supporters contributed under $500,” or nearly 78 percent.

Bevis’ email says the campaign and committee combined took in $13.4 million, and have $10 million in cash-on-hand as of May 31.

“Not only is the campaign off to a strong financial start, but it has also seen impressive grassroots support in the first month since Putnam announced his run for governor,” Bevis said.

She cites 2,063 supporters in Bartow on May 10, 190 supporters at each bus tour stop on average, 632 supporters at Suwannee Valley BBQ in O’Brien on May 20, and 1,024 volunteers signed up.

“These numbers are as of 5 p.m. on Wednesday, May 31,” Bevis added in a footnote. “Contributions are still being processed.”

Legal briefs due soon in Florida Lottery appeal

Initial briefs are due early next month in the Florida Lottery’s appeal of a Tallahassee judge’s decision that invalidated its $700 million contract for new equipment.

Circuit Judge Karen Gievers in March had invalidated the Lottery’s arrangement with IGT (International Game Technology), agreeing with House Speaker Richard Corcoran that the agency went on an illegal spending spree when it inked the deal last year.

Corcoran had filed a “writ of quo warranto,” a court action against government officials to demand they prove their authority to perform a certain action.

His suit faulted the Lottery “for signing a contract that spends beyond existing budget limitations.” Gievers eventually agreed with House general counsel Adam Tanenbaum, who had said the deal broke state law.

Because Lottery Secretary Tom Delacenserie “lacked the legal authority to enter into the IGT contract, (it) must, therefore, be found to be void and unenforceable,” Gievers wrote.

Delacenserie tendered his resignation last week, effective June 2. His letter did not give a reason.

Gievers faulted the agency for, among other things, not first seeking the Legislature’s permission to enter into a deal that committed the state to as much as two decades’ worth of funding.

The new deal provides much more than equipment, with provisions for in-store signage, self-service ticket checkers and upgraded security in the communications network.

Lottery proceeds go into the state’s Educational Enhancement Trust Fund, which helps pay for public education.

Pam Bondi says charities she helps aren’t required to register with state

Attorney General Pam Bondi’s office this week responded to a lawsuit claiming she forces businesses to pony up millions of dollars to unregistered charities as part of settlements in consumer protection cases.

Deputy Solicitor General Jonathan L. Williams, writing on Bondi’s behalf, said in part that some of the organizations criticized by Orlando entrepreneur John D. Smith aren’t “require(d) … to register (with the state) before receiving contributions from governmental entities.”

Rather, they need to register as charities if they plan to “solicit,” or ask for, charitable contributions, Williams added.

Circuit Judge Charles Dodson of Tallahassee ordered Bondi to show why he shouldn’t find for Smith, giving Bondi 40 days to respond. Williams’ response, filed Monday, came on the 40th day.

“Florida law expressly and unambiguously authorizes (the Attorney General’s office to require) a settling party’s promise to make a contribution to a third party,” said the response to the order to show cause. “Nowhere in the relevant statutes does it say that these third-party entities must be registered charities.”

In 2015, Bondi’s office launched an investigation against Smith, who invented Storm Stoppers plastic panels as a “plywood alternative” to protect windows during storms. He was one of many companies that chose to settle in what’s known as an “assurance of voluntary compliance.”  

Smith filed a petition for a “writ of quo warranto” in Leon County Circuit Civil court, saying Bondi “exceeded (her) authority” under a state law aimed at protecting consumers and businesses from abuse.

Some of the unregistered charities that Bondi makes settling parties give money to is her own “Law Enforcement Officer of the Year” award and various “scholarship funds designated by the Attorney General.”

Smith also said Bondi was wrongly directing contributions to her office’s nonprofit, Seniors vs. Crime, which is a “conflict of interest,” the suit says. Two of its directors work for Bondi.

“Seniors vs. Crime was created in 1989 by then-Attorney General Bob Butterworth,” Williams countered. “Since 2002, OAG (Office of Attorney General) employees have consistently served on the organization’s board. In keeping with that close historical relationship, OAG and Seniors vs. Crime share a common interest—protecting Florida’s senior citizens against fraud.”

“(A)bundant authority holds that such eminently laudable public service does not run afoul of applicable ethical requirements,” he added. Since she first assumed office in 2011, Bondi’s office settled enforcement actions with 14 businesses in which they wound up paying more than $5.5 million to 35 unregistered charities, the quo warranto petition says.

Moreover, Williams said Smith doesn’t have standing to challenge Bondi: “The Legislature has not authorized third-party challenges to the voluntary settlement agreements at issue here, and it would be unprecedented to permit such challenges.”

In a previous statement, Bondi called the legal action “meritless” and “harassment.” A next hearing in the case was not docketed as of Tuesday.

The hangover: Rick Scott vetoes ‘whiskey & Wheaties’ bill

Saying it could hurt job creation, Gov. Rick Scott vetoed a contentious bill that would have removed the ‘wall of separation’ between hard liquor and other goods.

Scott filed his veto letter of the measure (SB 106) on Wednesday night, his deadline to act on the bill. It’s the first veto of a bill from the 2017 Legislative Session.

It would have removed the 82-year-old requirement, enacted in Florida after Prohibition, that hard liquor be sold in a separate store. Beer and wine already are sold in grocery aisles in the Sunshine State.

But independent liquor store owners and other opponents flooded the Governor’s Office with thousands of emails and petitions against the bill.

Scott was careful to explain his position in his veto letter, balancing his concerns over jobs with the desires of big businesses that sorely wanted him to approve the legislation.

“Since becoming governor in 2011, I have repealed almost 5,000 regulations to reduce unnecessary burdens on Floridians,” he wrote. “From the day I took office, I have been committed to eliminating regulations that impose duplicative and unnecessary requirements on Florida’s citizens and businesses.

“I carefully reviewed this bill and I have met with stakeholders on both sides,” the governor added. “I listened closely to what they had to say and I understand that both positions have merit.

“Nevertheless, I have heard concerns as to how this bill could affect many small businesses across Florida. I was a small business owner and many locally owned businesses have told me this bill will impact their families and their ability to create jobs.”

For example, Kiran Patel, who owns liquor stores in Melbourne and Palm Bay, told lawmakers earlier this year that if the proposal became law, “we are finished … There’s no way we can even compete with” big box stores, which will “put pallets and pallets” of booze out in the open.

Amit Dashondi, who owns liquor stores in Brevard County, said his customers had been rooting for a veto.

“They love their independent liquor stores,” he said in a phone interview Wednesday night. “We know our customers by name. That’s not going to happen in big, corporate stores. They know how to take your money, and that’s it.”

Most recently, Costco had joined Wal-Mart, Target and others in one last push to get Scott to sign the bill, known by the nickname “whiskey and Wheaties.”

“Requiring retailers to segregate spirits into a separate store is outdated, discriminatory and unnecessary in a modern marketplace,” said Jay Hibbard, vice president of the Distilled Spirits Council, which supported the bill. “Florida consumers want the same convenience of one-stop shopping that consumers in most states enjoy. We encourage the Legislature to make this a priority in the next session.” 

Whole Foods Market and the Florida Restaurant & Lodging Association also were for the bill. But the Publix supermarket chain was against it because of its investment in its many separate liquor stores.

The veto effort was a rare effort by rivals: Florida’s own ABC Fine Wines & Spirits opposed the measure, as did the Florida Independent Spirits Association, representing smaller, independent liquor stores. Both were led by lobbyist Scott Dick, who fought against the proposal every year since it was filed in 2014.

There was last-minute lobbying on the measure: Scott’s public schedule for Tuesday shows he had taken a call with Wal-Mart U.S. President and CEO Greg Foran, and met in Tallahassee with ABC’s CEO and Chairman Charles Bailes III. 

“Thanks to Gov. Scott, we now have the opportunity to keep our doors open and keep our Florida workforce going strong,” said Rory Eggers, president of the Florida Independent Spirits Association, in a statement.

Added Bailes: “We believe he made his decision based on what is best for the State of Florida. We applaud the governor for saving hundreds of Florida small businesses that employ thousands of Floridians, while at the same time keeping safeguards in place for minors.”

The bill passed both chambers on close margins: 21-17 in the Senate and a razor thin 58-57 in the House. Also, five House members who missed the vote voted ‘no’ after the roll call.

Among other things, the bill would have required miniature bottles to be sold behind a counter and allowed for a 5-year phase-in. It further called for employees over 18 to check customers’ ID and approve sales of spirits by cashiers under 18.

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