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Senate begins consideration of ‘whiskey and Wheaties’ bill

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After Sen. Bill Galvano first proposed it four years ago, the Senate is poised to pass a bill removing the “wall of separation” between hard liquor and other retail goods. 

Bill sponsor Anitere Flores, a Miami-Dade Republican and Senate President pro tempore, took questions on the legislation (SB 106) Tuesday. It’s now set up for debate and a final vote.

The “whiskey and Wheaties” measure aims to repeal the Prohibition-era state law requiring businesses, such as grocery chains and big-box retailers, to have separate stores to sell liquor.

“The question now becomes has this outlived its purpose?” Flores said. “The answer is yes.” Beer and wine already are sold in grocery aisles in Florida.

The Senate bill also would phase-in the integration of liquor into main stores over several years, starting in 2018. The House companion (HB 81) has been struggling, escaping its committees by one-vote margins twice.

Big-box stores like Wal-Mart and Target want the repeal, saying the added convenience is “pro-consumer,” and independently-owned liquor store operators say they will suffer.

If signed into law, Florida would be the 30th state to allows the sale of hard liquor in general retail space, advocates say.

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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