Legislators have struck a deal with Gov. Bill Haslam on control of appointments to the state Alcoholic Beverage Commission, according to Senate Republican Caucus Chairman Bill Ketron.
Ketron announced the compromise to the Senate State and Local Government Committee last week in presenting an amendment to SB2095. The measure was then unanimously approved by the panel.
Under current law, the governor appoints all three members of the ABC, which regulates the state’s system for sale and distribution of alcoholic beverages — except beer, which is mostly left to local governments.
As introduced, the bill would have expanded the number of commission members from seven, letting the governor keep three appointments but giving the speakers of the House and Senate two appointments each. The governor’s appointees would thus become a minority on the panel with legislative appointees holding a 4-3 majority.
As amended, the bill will instead expand the commission to five members — the governor keeping three appointees and each speaker getting one appointment. Haslam will thus keep a majority of the appointments, Ketron said, but legislators will “have more eyes working with the (ABC executive) director … to give him more direction” with the state’s alcoholic beverage industry in an expansion mode.
To avoid increasing taxpayer costs, Ketron said, the bill also reduces the payment to ABC members from $500 for every ABC meeting “whether they show up or not” to $300 per meeting. And there’s a provision that says any member missing more than half of ABC meetings in a calendar year will lose his or her seat.
Ketron said — “no offense to the current members” — that in five of the ABC regular monthly meetings during 2014 only two commissioners attended; and that in 2015, there were six meetings with only two commissioners on hand.