Florida Five: Craft beer breweries fight back, GOP not buying Dems’ Hispanic insult hype

Five of today’s top Florida political stories at your fingertips:

craft beerCraft beer breweries fight back against Big Beer: Small breweries may be not as mighty as Anheuser-Busch distributors, but they showed a little muscle on Monday by helping to dramatically alter 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. That frustrated breweries like Tampa’s Cigar City, Tampa Bay Brewing Co. and St. Petersburg’s Green Bench Brewing Co., who want the ability to sell their beer in those quantities. Read more.

RPOF pushes back at Florida Democrats over insults to Hispanics: Florida Republicans are pushing back at the Democrats over a report that Mike Fernandez, who had been Gov. Rick Scott’s campaign finance co-chair, resigned due to campaign aides doing an over-the-top Mexican accent around him. Fernandez resigned his post on Thursday night. The Miami Herald is reporting that Fernandez quit in part due to the aides’ behavior. The Scott team, including Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera, insists that nobody on the campaign has done anything like that. Lenny Curry, the chairman of the Republican Party of Florida (RPOF), weighed in on Monday afternoon, insisting the Democrats have been the party treating Hispanics badly and making fun of them. Curry pointed toward congressional candidate former state CFO Alex Sink’s comment at a candidate forum at the end of February that immigration reform was needed for “people to work to clean our hotel rooms or do our landscaping.” Read more.

Sports stadium bill drawing more teams like flies: A proposal to make Florida sports teams compete for new tax-incentives is attracting major-league interest from other sports franchises, including minor-league soccer teams and spring training baseball sites. It’s a rite of spring. Florida lawmakers consider sports stadium incentives almost every year, and additional teams always try to catch a ride on the bills.This year, Orlando and Miami are pushing to get approved for $2 million annually for Major League Soccer stadiums being planned. But the Senate’s Commerce and Tourism Committee had to beat back an amendment to also allow existing franchises in the North American Soccer League to qualify for tax dollars, and spring-training amendments also were added. The bill, SB 1216, is being carried by Sen. Jack Latvala, R-Clearwater, who conceded its controversial nature likely meant it would go down to the wire this session. Last year, the Senate passed the package but House Speaker Will Weatherford refused to give it a vote because it contained incentives for the Miami Dolphins. Read more.

Enterprise Florida to open offices in China: Florida Secretary of Commerce and CEO of Enterprise Florida Gray Swoope traveled to China this week to open business development offices in Hong Kong and Shanghai, according to a news release. The offices will focus on attracting foreign direct investment to Florida, trade relations and increase Florida seaport activity. The sites are the second and third location in Asia to host an official Enterprise Florida presence. “We are opening these full-service offices to provide support to a growing number of Chinese companies interested in doing business in Florida. Read more.

red light camera
Photo Credit: Long Island Newsday

House panel approves red light camera limitations, not repeal: Local governments would have limits on where they can put new red light cameras and how they can use money from ensuing violations under a measure approved by a House committee today. House Bill 7005 is a wide-ranging transporation bill, but among its provisions are updates to the state’s red light camera laws that reflect findings from a recent state report.
The House’s Transportation and Economic Development Appropriations Subcommittee unanimously approved an amended HB 7005 today. Part of the reason the bill, sponsored by Miami Republican Rep. Frank Artiles, received universal support is that some of the more controversial provisions in the original version were deleted. Read more.

BONUS: Video: Cowardly city officials silence critics with ridiculous ‘no personal attacks’ rule


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