Give state Rep. Carlos Trujillo credit for frankness.
On Tuesday, he yanked his ‘whiskey and Wheaties’ bill from the agenda of the House Business and Professions subcommittee because, as he said, “one of my four votes is not here today” (though four votes is a minority on the 13-member committee).
Trujillo, a Miami Republican, was referring to the panel’s Democratic ranking member, Kevin Rader of Delray Beach.
The temporary postponement, of course, immediately started the buzz that the always contentious measure was on the rocks even before its first committee hearing.
The bill (HB 245) is aimed at repealing the Prohibition-era law that requires retailers to have separate stores to sell liquor. It also would allow minors to work at such retailers that opt to sell hard liquor in their main stores.
This will be the third legislative session that the effort is before lawmakers. The initiative was first carried in 2014 by state Sen. Bill Galvano, the Bradenton Republican in line to become Senate president in 2018-20.
State Rep. Greg Steube, a Sarasota Republican, and state Sen. Denise Grimsley, a Sebring Republican, pushed the proposal this past session, but even a watered-down plan that would have allowed a door in the wall between a main store and an attached liquor store failed.
Proponents say it’s about customer convenience. Opponents counter that it’s a grab for market share that will hurt traditional “pure play” liquor stores, especially “mom ‘n’ pop” shops.
Big-box chains Wal-Mart and Target support tearing down the wall of separation; Publix supermarkets, ABC Fine Wines & Liquor and the alcohol and drug-abuse prevention community stand in opposition.
Supporters also are quick to add the change would be an option — not a mandate — on businesses.