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Florida Gov. Rick Scott signs bills to regulate beer sales, flying drones and speeding tickets

Florida breweries can start selling beer in 64-ounce growlers, police departments will be banned from setting traffic ticket quotas and the use of drones will be limited under three of the 27 new bills Gov. Rick Scott signed into law on Thursday.

The governor cited a need for fewer regulations and more pro-business policies when he signed a bill allowing half-gallon growlers, a standard container in the industry that has been legal in every state but Florida.

Not only will breweries be able to sell the refillable jugs full of their beer when the law goes into effect July 1, but they also will be allowed to obtain up to eight vendor licenses and open tasting rooms. For years, they’ve done so under an exemption meant to promote tourism, which was the subject of a lawsuit filed by beer distributors early this year.

The craft beer boom has been anemic in Florida, with a lower per-capita economic impact in 2012 than any other state, according to the most recently available data from the Brewers Association. Craft beer supporters argue these victories could help the industry tap into much faster growth.

It took three years to reach a compromise on growlers, and Tampa Bay lawmakers have been at the forefront of the debate. Sen. Jack Latvala, R-Clearwater, and Rep. Chris Sprowls, R-Palm Harbor, sponsored bills in the Legislature this year. House Majority Leader Dana Young, R-Tampa, has done so in the past.

Taking to Facebook and Twitter after securing the growler bill victory, Latvala wrote, “This new law now gives Florida’s craft brewers a chance to grow and meet demand from both our residents and visitors.”

Speed traps

The governor also acted against cities that rely on speed traps to fund their police departments.

Inspired by Waldo and Hampton, two small towns in his district, Sen. Rob Bradley, R-Fleming Island, sponsored legislation banning law enforcement agencies from setting a traffic ticket quota for their officers.

Starting July 1, police departments that fund more than a third of their budgets with traffic fines will be required to submit reports to the Legislature, which could audit them.

“Those towns were writing tickets in order to finance their law enforcement operations, and that’s not acceptable,” Bradley said. “Traffic laws should be enforced for public safety purposes and not for revenue purposes.”

Drone privacy

As unmanned drones become increasingly available, Floridians won’t be able to use them to spy on their neighbors, at least not legally.

Scott signed a bill prohibiting the use of drones for surveillance anywhere there’s a “reasonable expectation of privacy,” such as flying over someone’s backyard.

The law effective July 1 joins existing limitations on drones that ban law enforcement from using them to collect evidence without a warrant, but the issue will likely return in future legislative sessions as use of the technology grows. For example, Amazon is preparing to launch a drone service to deliver packages within a half hour of an order being placed online.

Among other bills signed Thursday

▪ Revenge porn: Sexually explicit images posted online with information identifying someone can be criminally prosecuted beginning Oct. 1, unless the subject of the pictures consents.

▪ Public records: Email addresses provided to county tax collectors and the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles will be shielded from public disclosure under open record laws starting July 1.

▪ Lobbyist gift ban: Lawmakers will be allowed to use public property without paying for it starting July 1, the first-ever tweak to a 2005 ban on gifts from lobbyists or organizations that employ them.

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