Today, April 21, 2014, Florida Senate Bill 1714 will be heard by the rules committee at 1 p.m. before it heads to a full vote of the Florida Senate. We wrote last week about the problems associated with the anti-free market three tier system (see below) and this bill, with its amendments, would force craft brewers into that costly system. Under this bill, craft brewers would be forced to have their product picked up by a distributor, then brought back to their place of business to be sold - all in an effort to continue hiding an extra tax consumers rarely see.Watching discussion of the bill during the Regulated Industries Committee by state senators could have been chalked up to comedy as the scheme being proposed seemed so bizarre by those in attendance. One state senator was actually suggesting to leave the newly produced craft beer at the craft brewers, then have a distributor come to take a look at it, then charge the craft brewer for the visit and thereby the State of Florida could also collect another tax. Yet this is precisely what is likely to happen, raising the price to consumers so an unnecessary distributor can get their cut and so the State of Florida can inject another hidden tax.
Liberty First Network (LFN), a Florida-based education and advocacy group, is encouraging its members to contact their state senators today in an effort to stop what they are calling "The Craft Brewery Extortion Bill." In an email this morning to its members, LFN stated, "This bill forces microbreweries to sell their product to a distributor but then buy it back at a higher price to sell to their customers. Due to the “come-to-rest” provision within this bill, no beer will leave the premises but the higher fees and excise taxes will still have to be paid to the distributor. Microbreweries will have to catalogue how much of their product was sold and pay a fee to the distributor for a product that was produced on the premises without ever having received any service from the distributor. They will also have to pay the additional excise tax at the wholesale level even as they do not buy or sell their product on the wholesale market. Does that sound like extortion? It should, because that is exactly what it is."
It should be noted that those craft brewers who brew under 2,000 kegs in one year would be exempt from this bill. Once a craft brewer exceeds 2,000 kegs, for instance the popular Funky Buddha out of South Florida, then they would meet the threshold forcing them into the three tier distribution system and thereby likely increasing their prices to consumers.
Below is the contact information for members of the rules committee should you wish to contact them and voice your support against forcing small craft brewers from participating in the three tiered system via SB 1714.
Senator Thrasher (850) 487-5006 - firstname.lastname@example.org
Senator Smith (850) 487-5031 - email@example.com
Senator Beacquisto (850) 487-5030 - firstname.lastname@example.org
Senator Diaz de la Portilla (850) 487-5040 - email@example.com
Senator Galvano (850) 487-5026 - firstname.lastname@example.org
Senator Gardiner (850) 487-5013 - email@example.com
Senator Latvala (850) 487-5020 - firstname.lastname@example.org
Senator Lee (850) 487-5024 - email@example.com
Senator Margolis (850) 487-5035 - firstname.lastname@example.org
Senator Montford (850) 487-5003 - email@example.com
Senator Negron (850) 487-5032 - firstname.lastname@example.org
Senator Richter (850) 487-5023 - email@example.com
Senator Ring (850) 487-5029 - firstname.lastname@example.org
Senator Simmons (850) 487-5010 - email@example.com
Senator Sobel (850) 487-5033 - firstname.lastname@example.org
In related news, tomorrow at 9 a.m., Florida Senate Bill 470 will be before the Appropriations Committee which would allow beer tastings to happen in appropriately licensed venues. SB 470 has a companion bill in the Florida House (HB 387). There are two weeks in the 2014 Florida legislative session until they meet next year.