Transportation, brewery measures break with conservative principles

Florida Legislature sideways on several issues

April 27, 2014 

1029_BRLO_scott

Florida Gov. Rick Scott talks with local officials during breakfast at Peaches restaurant on Manatee Avenue West in late October. Beside him are state Sen. Bill Galvano and Rep. Jim Boyd. GRANT JEFFERIES/Bradenton Herald

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The conservative principles that embrace a free market and other pro-business policies, small government and taxation limits get a bit fuzzy in Florida's Republican-dominated Legislature. Here are several examples as the Legislature enters the final week of the 2014 regular session.

Transportation funding

The House unanimously approved a transportation bill Thursday that include support for more toll roads to help pay for road construction.

In fiscal 2013, the Legislature stole almost $194 million from the state's transportation trust fund -- not only allowing infrastructure to further deteriorate but robbing road builders and construction workers of contract and job opportunities.

That trust fund is nourished, in part, by state gas taxes, which have remained stable since 1991 -- a good thing, we must say.

As Rep. Tom Goodson, R-Titusville, explains his bill, HB 7175, "As Republicans, we don't want to tax the people. Why would I want to vote to raise any taxes?"

Instead, he found another way to get into people's wallets, via toll roads. Goodson, by the way, is a roads contractor. A toll is still money to government, no matter the justification. The difference between a "fee" and a "tax" is not lost on pocketbooks.

Home rule restriction

Goodson's bill also increases state constraints on local governments and potential revenue streams. This is particularly important to the municipalities on Anna Maria Island as city leaders grapple with parking issues and overcrowding.

HB 7175 bars cities and counties from putting parking meters along state roads for one year while the state figures out how to rob local governments of that revenue.

Gulf Drive, Manatee Avenue and Cortez Road are state roads, SR 789, 64 and 684 respectively. While those roads are not conducive to parking meters in most areas, the city of Anna Maria would not be allowed place meters in front of the businesses on Gulf Drive should this legislation pass.

This is big government beating up on small government.

Craft brewery ban

Legislators give lip service to support for small business when it comes to bigger business and campaign contributions. This came into sharp focus over Senate bill 1714, which clamps down on microbreweries selling beer directly to consumers.

So much for Florida's business-friendly and regulatory-restrained policies.

The ponderous restrictions in SB 1714 ban brew pubs that produce more than 2,000 kegs a year from selling cans and bottles of beer directly to their customers. Instead, those small businesses would have to sell their product to beer distributors and then buy it back before stocking shelves.

As we've already opined, this is a corporate shakedown of the worst order, a power play by the Florida Beer Wholesalers' Association. The organization doubled its donations to the re-election campaigns of senators who voted on the measure, the Herald/Times Tallahassee reported last week.

Bradenton Sen. Bill Galvano voted in favor of the measure last week as a member of the powerful Rules Committee. The bill will reach the Senate floor Monday. We urge Galvano to reverse his position and support Bradenton's burgeoning microbrew industry.

Motorworks Brewery opened this year in the Village of the Arts, and two more, Darwin's and Little Giant, are coming soon.

SB 1714 throws a bone to microbreweries by allowing sales of 64-ounce growlers. While those containers are popular with craft beef aficionados, the half-gallon growlers go flat if not consumed with 24 hours of opening. Bottles and cans allow smaller consumption, and contribute mightily to the business plans and success of craft brew pubs.

A 1963 law allows breweries to sell pre-packaged beer directly to consumers. Why would Florida endanger a growing industry by restricting retail sales? Overwhelming, states across the nation allow such sales and big private beer distributors remain in business.

House Majority Whip Dana Young, R-Tampa, echoed conservative principles as an opponent of SB 1714:

"I see the dramatic impact the craft brewing industry has on Florida and the Tampa Bay region. I am willing to expose the absurdity of the Senate's punitive bill and fight any attempts to hurt the industry ... Why would the Senate want to do this? It goes against every free market, small business principle we have."

Where are the other free-market, small-business conservatives?

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