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Statistics have commissioner reconsidering blue law stance

By Times Staff Writer
Published November 19, 2003

TAMPA - Statistics showing a sharp increase in alcohol-related deaths in Hillsborough have prompted one commissioner to reconsider her support of relaxing the county's blue law.

Hillsborough commissioners have been considering a technical code change relating to their previous vote to relax the law and allow earlier alcohol sales. Then they got an unexpected presentation.

Sgt. Steven Wallace, a deputy in charge of the central breath-testing unit for the Sheriff's Office, presented statistics to commissioners showing a 21 percent increase in alcohol-related deaths from 2000 to 2002. That alarmed Commissioner Jan Platt, who previously supported pushing back the time that bars and stores can sell alcohol on Sundays from 1 p.m. to 11 a.m. Commissioners voted initially in September to change the law, following the lead of the cities of Tampa and St. Petersburg.

"The problem is, for me, ethically and morally, if somebody stands up there and tells me there is an increase in deaths by alcohol, I can't sit here and vote to make it more available," Platt said.

Wallace later said under questioning that he was not there representing the sheriff, but rather himself and groups opposed to drinking and driving, which concerned some commissioners.

The issue will have to come back for future board consideration, but Platt's change of heart would reverse the commission's support of the blue law change, because it was a 4-3 vote before, and she could swing it in the other direction.

[Last modified November 19, 2003, 01:31:55]

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