Florida Beverage Industry Bills Update – April 6, 2014

It was a pretty quiet week for the beverage bills pending in the Florida Legislature–a little too quiet. With less than a month to go in the 2014 session and a week-long break beginning April 14, these beverage bills better get moving.

We continue our recap of the action (and inaction) of the goings-on with the Florida beverage bills during the past week (March 30 – April 5). Please let us know what you think in our Replies Section. Subscribe to BrewersLaw.com to stay informed.

Calm Before the Storm?

HB 283 (authorizing growlers and beer tastings). The House Regulatory Affairs Committee’s hearing on House Bill 283,  deferred from its originally scheduled date of March 27, 2014, has not been rescheduled. The bill’s author having amended the original bill text to track that of CS/HB 387 and CS/SB 470, both of which are further along, it could mean that HB 283 has reached the end of the line. That would be bad news for proponents of 64 oz growlers and an end to Florida’s crazy container-limiting statute generally. HB 283 (and companion CS/SB 406) would end the growler insanity, but not if it doesn’t pass into law.

CS/HB 387 (authorizing beer tastings only). House Bill 387, which only focuses on authorizing beer tastings in certain retail establishments, is still on the Second Reading Calendar. Remember that a bill must have three readings from the chamber floors before it can go to a vote by the whole chamber. But HB 387 has a lot of company on the Second Reading Calendar–over 21 pages of bills waiting for their second reading.

HB 1201 (regulation of wine and spirit importers).  Nope, still nothing. Apparently there’s not a lot of outrage over marking bottle labels of imported wine and spirits, which would be prohibited by House Bill 1201 and its companion, SB 1552.

CS/HB 1329 (comprehensive regulation of beer manufacturing). Florida brewers and their supporters are rooting for House Bill 1329, but it still has a ways to go. Nothing much has happened since the dramatic House Business and Professional Regulation Subcommittee hearing on March 24, 2014, at which the original text was thrown over in favor of a brewer-friendly amendment. HB 1329, as amended, has gotten its first reading, and last week it was assigned to the Government Operations Appropriations Subcommittee. No hearing has been scheduled by that subcommittee.

HB 7075 (comprehensive regulation of beer manufacturing). House Bill 7075, which would reform the playing field in a decidedly brewer-friendly direction, has simply failed to thrive. It still sits in the House Business and Professional Regulation Subcommittee without action or a scheduled hearing.

CS/SB 406 (authorizing growlers and beer tastings). Senate Bill 406 got its first reading on the Senate floor on March 4, 2014. However, the text of SB 406 no long matches that of its companion, House Bill 283. Still, SB 406 and HB 283 might be the best chance for seeing reform of the container size restrictions (and 64 oz growlers) come out of this session.

CS/SB 470 (authorizing beer tastings only). Like it’s companion, HB 387, Senate Bill 470 is making steady progress. It got its first reading on the Senate floor on April 1, 2014.

SB 1552 (regulation of wine and spirit importers). What do you think? You’re right: no action.

SB 1714 (formerly SPB 7120)(comprehensive regulation of beer manufacturing). Finally, we come to the main event. The Senate Community Affairs Committee will hold its hearing on Senate Bill 1714 on April 8, 2014 at 3 pm. This is one to watch.

Senate Bill 1714 (formerly SPB 7120) scored a victory in the Regulated Industries Committee, but what did we expect: of course the committee that introduced the bill would approve it. Now SB 1714 has to go on the road to Community Affairs.

While authorizing 64 oz growlers, SB 1714 would prohibit Florida brewers from selling bottled or canned beer for carry-out, unless it’s first sold and repurchased from a distributor (did you get that?).

Will a flurry of amendments be filed prior to the Tuesday afternoon hearing? Maybe. Will we see full-throated opposition from Florida brewers and their supporters? Definitely.

Time to Narrow the Field

We’ve been hanging onto a number of bills that seem to have no chance of getting out of committee (I’m looking at you HB 1201). With the Legislature’s week-long Easter break beginning April 14, next week will be time to cut the also-rans and focus on the handful of bills that have any chance at all of making it down the stretch. Right now, the only sure ones to make the cut appear to be CS/HB 387 and CS/SB 470–so, get ready for some retail beer tastings. But what’s going to happen with the comprehensive bills still in play–CS/HB 1329 and SB 1714? We’ll have a much better idea after the Community Affairs Committee hearing on Tuesday, April 8, 2014.

Next week, we’ll report on the SB 1714 hearing (it’s a big one) and all the week’s action (or inaction) on the other beverage law bills. And we’ll say good-bye to those bills that just never had a chance.