Saturday, November 18, 2017
Politics

Small brewers cheer changes to beer measure (w/video)

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Small breweries may not be as mighty as Anheuser-Busch distributors, but they showed a little muscle on Monday by helping to reshape a House bill that could have put some out of business.

"Some folks recognized that there were problems that needed to be addressed," said Josh Aubuchon, a Holland & Knight lobbyist who represents the Florida Brewers Guild, a consortium that includes 90 local breweries in Florida, including 28 in the Tampa Bay region.

HB 1329, sponsored by Rep. Ray Rodrigues, R-Fort Myers, would have legalized half-gallon containers, known as growlers, to sell craft beer. That size is legal in 47 other states, but not Florida.

But while Rodrigues' bill would make half-gallon growlers legal, it also came with many restrictions small breweries didn't like, so that only those with certain licenses were eligible. Aubuchon said additional restrictions would have made it difficult for many of the 90 breweries he is representing to operate.

So they cheered an amendment that eliminated most of those restrictions adopted by the House's Business & Professional Regulation committee on Monday. Under the revised bill, which has two more committees to go, breweries can more easily open tasting rooms and avoid many of the restrictions proposed in Rodrigues' original bill.

Even though it completely changed his bill, Rodrigues reversed himself and agreed to the changes.

"It's the legislative process at work," Rodrigues said afterward. "You get input from the public, you determine what the better policy is, and then you amend it as you go forward."

Bill puts limits on red light cameras

Local governments would be limited on where they can put new red light cameras and how they can use fines from violations under a measure approved by a House committee Monday.

The Transportation and Economic Development Appropriations Subcommittee unanimously approved the amended HB 7005, sponsored by Miami Republican Rep. Frank Artiles, after some controversial provisions were deleted.

Rather than doing away with the portion of the fine that goes to local agencies, local governments have to use at least 70 percent of their proceeds, or $52.50, for traffic safety projects. The proposal also requires local governments to complete an engineering study before they install red light cameras in an intersection.

The bill would also eliminate local governments' ability to write tickets for right-on-red violations (or left-on-red, at intersections of one-way streets). Now, drivers can receive citations only if there is a pedestrian in a walkway or they otherwise are shown to have failed to yield.

There currently is no Senate companion to the House bill.

Times staff writer Tia Mitchell contributed to this report.

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