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Florida craft brewery bill likely to fail in Florida House

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Although Florida Senate Bill 1714 passed in the Florida Senate yesterday, April 29, 2014, its four comparison bills will not likely see the light of day before the Florida legislature ends its session later this week. Speaking about the legislation, Florida House Speaker Bill Weatherford stated, "That bill has an uphill battle in the House."

The issue before the Florida legislature is whether to pass new regulations on the craft brewery industry and what those regulations would look like. Justin Wilson of the Institute for Justice said of the final bill, "Sen. Stargel's bill is a Trojan horse that stands to cripple Florida's craft breweries." Florida Republican Senator Kelli Stargel was pushing for the additional regulation on business.

The bill would limit brewers to 2,000 kegs produced in one year, otherwise they would be forced into the anti-free market three tier system of distribution. Currently craft brewers are able to, and prefer, to brew their beer on their premises and sell directly to their customers. Under the new regulations, they would have had to sell to a distributor and that distributor would require the brewer to buy back that same beer to sell to their customers. In addition to forcing brewers into the three tier system, the bill would "legalize" large containers of beer referred to as growlers. Growlers are currently legal as Florida statute does not define them and thereby escape this type of regulation from the state.

Yesterday, State Senator Stargel pushed for passage of the bill in the Florida House by saying:

"Under this law, all breweries will be able to sell up to 20 percent of their on-site production in cans, bottles and even 15.5 gallon kegs annually - which is a number that ensures that they will be able to continue to grow and expand. In addition, this bill would allow all breweries to sell an unlimited amount of what they brew in their taprooms, sell an unlimited amount of what they brew in 32-, 64- and 128-ounce growlers, and sell an unlimited amount of guest tap beer for on-site consumption.

As this bill heads to the Florida House, I want to recognize and thank Majority Whip Dana Young, as well as Speaker Will Weatherford and Representative Debbie Mayfield for the hard work that they and their staffs have put into this legislation on the House side. I am hopeful that the House will give thoughtful discussion to this good bill, to ensure breweries, also licensed as retailers, are clearly operating under the law, while still giving them the opportunity to grow and flourish."

Libertarians have been against the bill since its introduction and have noted that Republicans often talk about small government and less regulations, yet they continue to grow government and increase regulations. Libertarians were calling on the Florida legislature to abide by the free market which is working well for the growing industry.

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