Saturday, May 27, 2017

Florida Governor Rick Scott Vetoes Liquor Wall Bill

Gov. Rick Scott
     Florida's so-called "liquor wall" won't be coming down after all.  Gov. Rick Scott vetoed a bill late Wednesday that would have removed a Prohibition-era law requiring liquor to be sold in separate stores from groceries and other retail items.

     Twenty-nine other states have similar laws that allow spirits in the grocery aisles, but the bill gained stiff opposition from social conservatives concerned it would lead to increased alcohol consumption, alcoholism and underage drinking.   Yet it wasn't those concerns that swayed Scott. It was the pleas of independent liquor store owners and workers that led to his veto.   "I have heard concerns as to how this bill could affect many small businesses across Florida," Scott wrote in his veto letter. "I was a small business owner, and many locally owned businesses have told me how this bill will impact their families and their ability to create jobs."

     Scott gave few clues in the lead-in to his decision, but acknowledged on Tuesday that his family's history with alcoholism - his biological father and brother both suffered from it - gave him pause.   "I've had family members that have had the challenge of alcoholism and it concerns me," Scott told reporters Tuesday. "So as I review the bill, I take all those things into consideration." 

     Big-box retailers, such as Wal-Mart and Target, pushed for the bill the past four years and don't appear to be giving up on the idea.    "There is a clear momentum in Florida for this common-sense approach to liquor sales," said Michael Williams, spokesman for Floridians for Fair Business Practices, an advocacy group backed by Wal-Mart and Target. "We look forward to working with state leaders in the future to finally put an end to this outdated, Prohibition-era law."

     The bill was one of the most heavily lobbied pieces of legislation this year. As big retailers pushed for the measure, independent liquor stores and Orlando-based ABC Fine Wine & Spirits fought against it. Publix, which has gone to the expense of setting up liquor stores next -to its grocery stores, also opposed the legislation.