Gov. Rick Scott on Wednesday vetoed the hotly-debated "liquor wall" bill that would have repealed a Prohibition-era law that prevents grocery stores from selling hard liquor. The governor offered a hint of his thinking a day earlier when, in response to a reporter's question, he said one factor would be the past struggles with alcoholism among members of his family. But he said the decision came down to his signature issue -- jobs.
"I have heard concerns as to how this bill could affect many small businesses across Florida," Scott wrote in a veto message. "I was a small business owner and many locally owned businesses have told me how this bill will affect their families and their ability to create jobs."
The bill's supporters included big-box retailers such as Walmart, Target, Costco, Sam's Club and Walgreens, all of which stood to profit handsomely by the destruction of the wall. The opponents included locally-owned liquor stores, the statewide ABC Fine Wine & Spirits chain, and Lakeland-based Publix, which has invested millions in stand-alone liquor stores walled off from, but close to, its supermarkets. At least 28 other states allow grocery stores to sell spirits along with beer and wine.
The bill (SB 106) was one of the most heavily-lobbied bills of the session and passed both chambers by very narrow margins, a reflection of the powerful moneyed interests lined up on both sides.
The Senate vote was 21-17 and the House vote was 58-57. After the House vote, one lawmaker switched his vote from yes to no. In addition, at least three House members did not vote on the bill and were accused of "taking a walk" to avoid casting a diffcult vote.