Supermarket Wine Bill Fails By One Vote In House Committee
NASHVILLE, Tenn. - A proposal to loosen wine sale laws in Tennessee has failed by a single vote in a House committee after members of the panel refused to grant the sponsor a week's delay to negotiate a final version.
The House Local Government Committee voted 8-7 Tuesday to reject advancing the measure, which would allow local referendums on whether grocery stores should be able to sell wine.
"The bottom line is clearly the overwhelming majority of Tennesseans would like the opportunity to vote on this issue, and I wish it would have been the outcome today," said House Speaker Beth Harwell (R). "It wasn't and I respect the committee system."
Republican Rep. Jon Lundberg of Bristol, the bill's sponsor, had asked for a week to discuss changes to the bill a day after the beer wholesalers association, a traditional opponent of the proposal, swung its support behind the bill as long as it included strong beer.
Supporters of the bill from the grocery industry said the fight isn't over. "We're going to look at all possibilities at this point," said Jarron Springer with the Tennessee Grocers Association. "I mean this has always started with our consumers, and we're going to continue to fight for those consumers and what the majority of Tennesseans want. And we've gotten great momentum out of this. What a year we've had."
The bill has been opposed by the state's package store owners and the liquor wholesalers association.
"The tact of bringing up the referendum was a novel approach from their perspective," said Chip Christianson with the Tennessee Wine and Spirits Retail Association. "Certainly we were concerned, but it's a complicated matter and the legislature has studied it and they've made a wise decision."
The vote came after the measure was delayed in its final Senate committee to consider several changes desired by groups newly interested in negotiating over the measure.
A special subcommittee was appointed on Tuesday to work out a final version of the bill sponsored by Republican Sen. Bill Ketron of Murfreesboro. A full Senate Finance Committee vote was rescheduled for next week.
At the Kroger in Green Hills, shoppers reacted to the latest defeat to add wine to grocery shopping lists.
"I am very disappointed," said shopper Walt Lenard.
He supports selling wine in grocery stores.
"But I have no idea what they're thinking to vote it down, when all the other states, contiguous to Tennessee permit the sale of wine in the stores," Lenard said.
Not everyone in the check-out line agreed with Lenard's stance on this issue. Liza Hunt said alcohol is already too accessible and putting it on grocery store shelves would only make it easier for minors to by wine.
"I know how younger kids get it, they'll send their friends in that are a little older. No, I'm against all the way," Hunt said.
Supporters of the bill to put wine in grocery stores said they have conducted studies that show a majority of Tennessee voters support the idea.
According to the Tennessee General Assembly webpage, this is how those committee members voted:
Aye: Joe Carr (R), Vince Dean (R), Jeremy Durham (R), Jeremy Faison (R), Bo Mitchell (D), Antonio Parkinson (D), Mike Stewart (D)
No: Dale Carr (R), Jimmy Eldridge (R), Richard Floyd (R), Steve Hall (R), Matthew Hill (R), Andy Holt (R), Larry Miller (D), Mike Sparks (R)
(The Associated Press Contributed To This Report.)