The House is prepared for a vote on one of the most bitterly contested bills this Session — legislation designating strawberry shortcake with a dollop of whip cream as the state dessert.
Dover Republican Rep. Lawrence McClure sponsored the proposal (HB 567). It has been dubbed a “berry sweet” bill by proponents but has been knocked by some Key lime pie lovers. On Thursday, McClure presented the Senate version of the legislation (SB 1006), filed by Sen. Danny Burgess, for its second hearing in the House after it whipped through the Senate with unanimous approval.
Now, all that’s left for the bill is a House vote before it can make its way to the Governor’s desk. The bill hopes to promote Florida agriculture, especially its strawberry industry. Plant City, as noted in the bill, is home to the biggest shortcake, per Guinness World Records.
“This bill really is meant to highlight and celebrate seasonal fruits and vegetables here in the state of Florida,” McClure said. “Everyone here knows that agriculture is near and dear to my heart, and specifically the Florida strawberry.”
Despite unanimous approval in the Senate, the bill saw pushback Thursday from the Italian caucus, who tried to promote the inclusion of the cannoli. However, shortcake supporters quipped back, saying “There can-noli be one” state dessert.
“Since being part of the Italian caucus, I was wondering if you had taken into consideration any Italian desserts prior to landing on the strawberry shortcake idea,” said Rep. Mike Caruso.
McClure responded to Caruso saying, “Strawberry shortcake is for everyone.”
The Caribbean caucus also chimed in, asking if a little rum could be thrown on the dessert, to which McClure said, “To each his own on the rum.”
But perhaps the most contentious part of the bill was the decision to add a dollop of “natural Florida dairy topping” to the proposed state dessert. That specification was made via amendment at its final House committee meeting by Rep. Ralph Massullo, a Lecanto Republican.
However, members on both sides of the aisle had concerns that specifying a dairy topping might be exclusionary.
At that meeting, Orlando Democratic Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith asked Massullo whether the honorific allows for vegan options. Massullo stressed the amendment was about Florida dairy but left open the possibility that you could construe milk to be vegan if it comes from a grass-fed cow.
Jacksonville Republican Rep. Jason Fischer, when hearing the amendment, noted he is allergic to dairy. Massullo, a physician, said recent studies show people might actually be allergic to a protein in dairy products, not the lactose itself.
McClure hails from Dover. In neighboring Plant City, the strawberry industry is worth about $1 billion, he said. More than 10,000 acres of strawberries are planted annually in the Plant City area, accounting for nearly 75% of the nation’s winter strawberry crop.
Passing the bill has been a sweet treat for lawmakers. Leadership slated it to move through the House Public Integrity and Elections Committee, or PIE, for short. But the measure also has received consternation from some who pledge allegiance to the Key lime pie, which still retains its title as the state pie.