Liquor, Self-Defense Bills Moving Though Senate
Controversial proposals that would allow liquor to be sold in grocery stores and shift the burden of proof in "stand your ground" self-defense cases were set up Thursday to be among the first items the Senate could approve when the annual legislative session begins next month.
The Rules Committee voted 7-4 for a proposal (SB 106) that would end a Depression-era law requiring liquor stores and bars to be separated from groceries and other retail goods, an issue commonly referred to as the "liquor wall."
The committee then, in an 8-2 vote, supported a National Rifle Association-backed measure (SB 128) that would place the burden of proof on prosecutors during pre-trial hearings in "stand your ground" cases.
The proposal stems from a Florida Supreme Court ruling in 2015 that said defendants have the burden of proof to show they should be shielded from prosecution under the "stand your ground" law. In "stand your ground" cases, pre-trial evidentiary hearings are held to determine whether defendants should be immune from prosecution.
Opponents maintain the measure would put an end to cases before all the facts are revealed and contend that the "stand your ground" law has disproportionate effects, as it is used more successfully as a defense when white shooters kill African-Americans.
The annual legislative session starts March 7, and Senate and House committees are moving forward with bills in preparation. The "stand your ground" and liquor bills had earlier cleared other committees and are now positioned to go to the full Senate.
The liquor-wall measure, which has failed to advance in past sessions, pits retailers Wal-Mart and Target, both in favor of repealing the Depression-era law, against supermarket giant Publix and liquor-store chain ABC Fine Wine & Spirits.