After a contentious — and pricey —- battle over legislation dubbed “Whiskey and Wheaties,” Gov. Rick Scott yesterday vetoed a measure that would have “torn down the wall” separating booze from food and other goods.
The measure pitted Florida homegrown Publix Super Markets, independent liquor stores and ABC Fine Wine & Spirits, who opposed the measure, against big-box retailers, including Target and Walmart.
In his veto letter, Scott said the proposed change to the liquor industry could have hurt small business owners, a concern which outweighed his efforts to slash regulations.
Scott, whose schedule included phone calls with
“I carefully reviewed this bill and I have met with stakeholders on both sides,” Scott said. “I listened closely to what they had to say and I understand that both positions have merit. Nevertheless, I have heard concerns as to how this bill could affect many small businesses across Florida. 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.”
Sen. Anitere Flores, a Miami Republican who sponsored the effort, said she was disappointed that the governor didn’t give her a heads-up before axing the bill.
“I am disappointed that Governor Scott didn’t see that SB 106 is good policy and would improve the current alcohol separation laws in the State of Florida,” Flores said in a statement Wednesday night. “SB 106 would have not only created an even playing field for all; it would have put retailers and the entrepreneurial spirit first while applauding competition and a fair marketplace.”
Flores, one of Senate President Joe Negron‘s chief lieutenants, said she “looked forward to hearing from” Scott and addressing his concerns.
But the reaction to Scott’s first veto of the year wasn’t all negative.
“This bill would have decimated small locally owned liquor stores. Though proponents claimed this was a free market bill, it was nothing more than an attempt to use the statute to corner the market on liquor. Governor Scott stood up for small business tonight by vetoing the Whiskey and Wheaties bill,” Tim Nungesser, National Federation of Independent Business‘s Florida legislative director, said in a statement.
“On behalf of the more than 1,000 independent alcohol retailers and the thousands of Floridians that we employ, we are extremely grateful to Governor Rick Scott for vetoing Senate Bill 106 today. More than 1,000 letters and 3,000 petitions from around the state were delivered to the Governor with the message that vetoing this bill would save our Florida small retailers and jobs that help our local economies. Thanks to Governor Scott, we now have the opportunity to keep our doors open and keep our Florida workforce going strong,” Florida Independent Spirits Association President Rory Eggers crowed.
Even those on the losing side seemed temperate about Scott’s decision.
“We have made tremendous progress in the last four years and there is a clear momentum in Florida for this common-sense approach to liquor sales. While Governor Scott ultimately chose to veto Senate Bill 106, we look forward to working with state leaders in the future to finally put an end to this outdated, Prohibition-era law,” Michael Williams, spokesman for Floridians for Fair Business Practices, said in a press release.
Here’s a sample of tweets prompted by the announcement of the veto by Scott’s office, issued after 7 p.m. last night:
“Thank you @FlGovScott for protecting Florida’s small business person.” — Pasco County Tax Collector and former state legislator Mike Fasano.
“This is the most anti-free market action @FlGovScott has ever taken as governor. I’m truly disappointed.” — Christian Camara, conservative blogger and lobbyist.
“Cue the violins. What is poor poor Walmart gonna do now that they can’t have 100% maker share on liquor?” — Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith, D-Orlando.