Ramsey’s wine passage prophecy renewed

Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey said Wednesday (again, previous post HERE) that he thinks “some form” of wine-in-grocery-stores legislation will pass the General Assembly next year. Details from the ensuing reports — no one except readers of this blog and/or the Kingsport Times-News had noticed — follow:

From the Associated Press (full story below):
“The debacle that happened in the House with the change of the vote at the last minute I think actually helped,” Ramsey said. “There were several senators that may have been sitting on the fence and saw the reaction that came from that and they realized that now they’re going to be for it in some form.”

Hill, a Jonesborough Republican who has since drawn a primary opponent, did not immediately return a message seeking comment.

From the Commercial Appeal:
Tom Hensley, longtime lobbyist for the Wine & Spirits Wholesalers of Tennessee, which has opposed the bill along with liquor retailers, could not be reached for comment.

Ramsey’s remarks came as the Tennessee Grocers & Convenience Store Association renews its effort to encourage consumers to contact their state legislators in support of grocery store wine sales. The group’s wine initiative, called the Red White and Food campaign, has redesigned its website, redwhiteandfood.com, to make it easier for supporters to contact lawmakers via the Web, and Kroger stores have launched a postcard campaign for consumers.

From The Tennessean:
Through several years of debate, Ramsey is far from the first to predict that wine-in-grocery stores legislation will pass the legislature soon. But the Blountville Republican and powerful Senate leader said the bill’s advance last year had forced the liquor industry to consider compromising with grocery stores.

“They know it’s going to pass,” he said.

…Since session ended, the Kroger Co. has held a series of events in its Tennessee stores urging shoppers to fill out postcards to lawmakers to show their support for wine-in-supermakets.

Full AP story, by Eric Schelzig:
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Senate Speaker Ron Ramsey predicted Wednesday that lawmakers will approve a bill next session to allow wine to be sold in supermarkets and convenience stores.

The Blountville Republican told reporters that lawmakers previously uncertain about the proposal were surprised by the backlash to the failure of this year’s bill in a House committee.

This year’s bill died when House Local Government Chairman Matthew Hill, who had supported an earlier version, cast the deciding vote against the measure.

“The debacle that happened in the House with the change of the vote at the last minute I think actually helped,” Ramsey said. “There were several senators that may have been sitting on the fence and saw the reaction that came from that and they realized that now they’re going to be for it in some form.”

Hill, a Jonesborough Republican who has since drawn a primary opponent, did not immediately return a message seeking comment.

Current law keeps supermarkets and convenience stores from selling beer stronger than 5 percent by weight, which is the equivalent of about 6.5 percent in the more common measure of alcohol by volume. Anything stronger can only be sold in liquor stores, which aren’t allowed to sell any items beyond booze and lottery tickets.

Supporters of changing the law note that that the measure would allow for local votes on whether to allow supermarket wine sales only in communities that have previously passed referendums to allow sales of liquor by the drink and retail package stores.

Statewide public opinion polls have shown strong support for supermarket wine sales, but opponents have raised fears about wider availability of stronger alcohol and the effect the change would have on existing liquor stores.

The beer industry, a longtime opponent of supermarket wine, last session swung its support in favor of the measure — provided the law also allows them to sell strong beer outside of liquor stores.

This year’s legislative session ended with the Senate version of the measure awaiting a full floor vote. Ramsey said he would prefer to have the chamber vote on that bill next year, but acknowledged that parliamentary problems in the House could require a whole new bill to introduced.

The Senate bill would make a series of other changes that supporters said would help make up for liquor stores losing their exclusive right to sell wine. They would include allowing package stores to be open on Sundays and holidays, and linking supermarket wine sales to the hours they are currently allowed to sell beer.

The measure would also allow liquor stores to begin selling items like snacks, beer and ice in 2014, regardless of whether a city or county had approved supermarket wine sales.

None of those proposals had been added to the House bill before it lost its committee vote.