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Is House splitting the difference over the whiskey & Wheaties bill?

in Statewide/Top Headlines by

After the “whiskey and Wheaties” bill nearly whiffed in the House, a new twist was filed Monday evening.

A proposed amendment on the bill (HB 81) would create dual “liquor package store licenses,” with “Type A” licenses going to stores keeping a wall of separation between booze and other retail items, and “Type B” licenses going to those who sell liquor in the same general space as other goods.

Those getting a Type B license also must pay “an additional amount” on top of the annual license fee according to a sliding scale based on population.

The bill—sponsored by Bryan Avila, a Hialeah Republican—is set to be heard Tuesday by the House Government Operations & Technology Appropriations Subcommittee. Avila also offered the latest amendment.

For four years, various lawmakers have filed a proposal to repeal the Prohibition-era state law requiring businesses, such as grocery chains and big-box retailers, to have separate stores to sell liquor. Beer and wine already are sold in grocery aisles in Florida.

While the Senate version (SB 106) cleared all its review panels and is ready for the floor, this year’s House bill stumbled out of its first committee on an 8-7 vote, with its own chairman voting against it.

It was then temporarily postponed in the appropriations subcommittee earlier this month when it became clear it didn’t have enough votes to move forward.

Wal-mart, Target and others say tearing down the wall of separation between liquor and other goods is simply a “pro-consumer” move toward added convenience.

Alcoholic beverage retailers, such as ABC Fine Wines & Spirits and independent owners, have complained the bill is being pushed by the big retailers looking to expand their market reach. Publix Super Markets also opposes the bill, saying it’s invested in the separate liquor store model.

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.

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