Florida Beer Bills Update – March 23, 2014

As of March 22, 2014, a total of 11 beverage industry bills are up for consideration in the Florida Legislature. All but a handful of those bills are focused on dramatically reshaping the operation of Florida’s breweries. To help beverage industry players and enthusiasts track the activity in Tallahassee, we bring you our weekly legislative update.

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Committee Approves New HB 387 Authorizing Beer Tastings

The Regulatory Affairs Committee unanimously approved House Bill 387, which authorizes beer tastings at licensed premises. However, this isn’t exactly the same HB 387 we reviewed several weeks ago (in Beer Bills Pending for 2014 Florida legislative session). The text of HB 387 was entirely rewritten by a Committee Substitute. The substitute text closely matches the beer tasting provisions of House Bill 7075 (analyzed in Florida Beer Bill Provides Comprehensive Rules for Taprooms, Brewpubs, Tastings, & Growlers – FL HB 7075), with a few exceptions. One notable difference: HB 387 authorizes 3.5 oz beer samples as compared to 3.0 oz samples authorized by HB 7075.

HB 1329 Under Attack

Not only is House Bill 1329 (analyzed in New Beer Bill Would Drastically Change Florida Brewery Taprooms – FL HB 1329) being attacked by the craft brewing community (with Intuition Ale Works leading the charge), it is now receiving fire from within the Legislature. HB 1329 is widely known to have the support of a group of Anheuser-Busch distributors in Florida.

The House Business & Professional Regulation Subcommittee filed an unfavorable Staff Analysis on March 21, 2014. Of note, the Staff Analysis states that the “restrictions and limitations [contained in HB 1329] should reduce the potential revenue of [Florida craft breweries].” Compare that to the same subcommittee’s Staff Analysis of House Bill 7075, which concludes “This bill will expand business opportunities for manufacturers and vendors of malt beverages.”

Also happening March 21, 2014, two “strike all” amendments were filed in the House to entirely re-write the text of HB 1329.

Representative Steube’s amendment essentially replaces the text of HB 1329 with the text of HB 7075, with a few exceptions. Most notably, Representative Steube’s amendment would not allow collaboratively brewed beer to be considered as the product of both breweries, which could limit the abilities to sell the beer on premises or in growlers. Representative Steube’s amendment also does not contain the beer tasting amendments contained in HB 7075.

Representative Young’s amendment strikes the text of HB 1329 entirely and replaces it with a very limited amendment to authorize 64 oz growlers.

SPB 7120 Introduces New Growler Bill to Senate

Not all of the action is happening in the Florida House of Representative. In the Florida Senate, the Regulated Industries Committee introduced Senate Proposed Committee Bill 7120 on March 21, 2014.

SPB 7120 does not introduce House Bill 1329 in the Senate, contrary to what some have reported, at least not entirely. SPB 7120 essentially matches only the growler-focused portions of HB 1329. The bill would limit a brewery’s sales for off premises consumption to filling growlers (32 oz or 64 oz only) with the brewery’s own beer. Growler delivery services would be prohibited. Brewpubs would not be allowed to fill growlers, but retailers holding a full liquor license would be allowed to fill growlers. Growlers would have to be labeled appropriately, but one brewery’s growler could be filled at another brewery so long as permanent brand markings are covered.

Beer Bill Committee Hearings Continue

During the week of March 24, 2014, committees in both the House and Senate will hold hearings on pending beer bills.

Headlining the week will be the House Business and Professional Regulation Subcommittee’s hearing on HB 1329, scheduled for Monday, March 24, 2014, at 3 pm. This is the subcommittee that introduced HB 7075, which is the bill most at odds with HB 1329.

In the Senate, the Community Affairs Committee will be considering SB 470 on Tuesday, March 25, 2014, at 2 pm. SB 470, which only focuses on beer tastings, has already received unanimous approval in the Senate Regulated Industries Committee. Senate Bill 470 is the companion bill to HB 387, but the amended version of HB 387, just approved by the House Regulatory Affairs Committee, has not yet been introduced in the Senate.

On March 26, 2014, the Senate Regulated Industries Committee will consider its own SPB 7120 in a hearing scheduled for Wednesday, March 26, 2014, at 1:30.

We’ll report on the action coming out of the committee hearings as it happens via Twitter (@BrewersLaw). Next weekend, we’ll post wrap up of the week in beer bills and preview the Florida Legislature’s focus on the beverage industry scheduled for the first week of April.