The Senate Finance Committee has approved, 7-4, legislation that would authorize sale of wine in grocery stores.
The bill (SB837) was approved in a Wednesday evening meeting of the panel, which has been debating it for some time. On April 2, it failed on a 5-5-1 tie vote in the committee.
Those changing their position Wednesday from the first vote were Sen. Doug Henry, D-Nashville, who voted yes instead of no, and Sen. Ferrell Haile, R-Gallatin, who abstained the first time and voted yes on Wednesday.
The House companion bill failed earlier in committee, so the bill is dead for the year. Approval by the Senate committee, however, means that it will be poised for a vote on the Senate floor when legislators return for the 2014 session.
“We’ll wait and see what the House does in January,” said Sen. Bill Ketron, R-Murfreesboro, in a brief Senate floor speech.
— Note: A statement from proponents of the bill is below.
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Tennessee liquor stores would be allowed to be open for business on Sundays under changes to a supermarket wine bill adopted by the Senate Finance Committee on Tuesday.
The panel voted to make several changes to the measure seeking to allow cities and governments to hold referendums on whether to permit supermarkets and convenience stores to sell wine.
The changes included ending a ban on liquor stores operating 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.
The panel delayed a final vote on the bill for a week so members could have time to think about the changes. The companion bill has failed in a House committee, but supporters hope it can be revived either this year or next.
The Sunday liquor sales provision was the most contested element of the bill, with its approval coming down to a single vote.
All six votes in favor of Sunday liquor sales came from Republicans, while two GOP members sided with all three Democrats on the panel voting against it.
“I know the blue laws are outdated, but there’s something wrong about selling a bottle of whiskey on a Sunday morning,” said Democratic Sen. Douglas Henry of Nashville.
Sen. Bill Ketron, R-Murfreesboro and the bill’s main sponsor, noted that under the bill, liquor store hours would be limited to noon until 11 p.m. on Sundays.
Republican Sen. Doug Overbey lauded Ketron for having “labored long and hard in this vineyard,” but argued for taking a week to contemplate the many changes made to the original legislation.
Fellow Republican Sen. Ferrell Haile of Gallatin said he was worried about the range of changes to the original bill.
“I don’t want to vote against wine in grocery stores because I think our constituents are looking for this,” he said. “But there are all kinds of warning signs here to me that I’m concerned about our younger people and availability in the convenience markets that they go to.”
Republican Rep. Jon Lundberg of Bristol, the main House sponsor of the bill, said he was unaware of any move to resurrect his version of the bill this year, but questioned why the Senate was trying to add so many elements beyond a local referendum to the measure.
“It’s real simple, it’s an up-or-down, yes-no vote, on whether they want to have wine sales in grocery stores,” Lundberg said. “The opposition is trying to make it vastly more complex than it is.
NASHVILLE – A bill clearing the way for sale of wine and grocery stores was killed in a House committee Tuesday, shattering hopes of proponents who had thought they were on the verge of breaking a six-year run of defeats.
Eight members of the House Local Government Committee voted against HB610 while just seven voted for it. The sponsor, Rep. Jon Lundberg, R-Bristol, had asked that the vote be postponed a week, but his request was rejected after Rep. Andy Holt, R-Dresden, said members “should hear it and make a decision today.”
The bill, in a change from most versions of the bill in prior years, did not directly allow wine in grocery stores. Instead, it let any city council or county commission – where liquor-by-the-drink is now legal – to schedule hold a local referendum on whether to expand wine sales to convenience stores and supermarkets.
Currently, only liquor stores can sell wine and they are forbidden to sell anything other than alcoholic beverages. Multiple amendments had been filed – 10 in the House committee – and most would have granted new rights to liquor stores faced with new competition. The amendments included proposals to allow sale of other products in liquor stores, to allow them to open on Sundays and holidays and to allow the same person to own more than one liquor store.
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — A proposal to allow local referendums on whether grocery stores should be able to sell wine has been 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.
Among the issues supporters want to hammer out is whether the bill should also allow liquor stores to sell beer, which hours wine would be available for sale and the exact start date of supermarket wine sales after it is approved by voters and w.
The bill has been opposed by liquor wholesalers and package store owners.
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — The beer industry has swung its support behind a bill to allow Tennessee supermarkets and convenience stores to sell wine as long as the measure also allows places to sell strong beer.
Tennessee Malt Beverage Association President Rich Foge confirmed to The Associated Press on Monday that his board decided to drop its long opposition to changing the law. In return, the beer makers want a provision allowing grocery stores to sell high-gravity beer, which has higher alcohol content and is currently only allowed to be sold in liquor stores.
“If the marketplace is going to change where regular beer and wine are sold side-by-side on a grocery store shelf, high-gravity beer should be, too,” Foge said.
Senate Speaker Ron Ramsey, R-Blountville, and House Speaker Beth Harwell, R-Nashville, have made it a priority to pass the bill seeking to allow cities and counties that already allow liquor sales to hold referendums on whether to allow supermarket wine sales.
Foge said the speakers’ strong support for the measure played into his association’s decision to change course on the bill.
“We had a long discussion about it and one of things that got serious consideration is that the speakers of both chambers urged the parties to come to the table,” he said. “And we’re heeding that advice.”
The bill opposed by liquor wholesalers and the association representing package store owners has cleared its first legislative committees in both chambers. The Senate Finance Committee was scheduled to take up the measure on Tuesday.
State Sen. Bill Ketron predicts the liquor lobby will “come to the table” next week and start negotiating details in his wine-in-grocery-stores bill as it gains momentum more than four years after he initiated it, according to the Murfreesboro Daily News Journal. “I think the liquor lobby is starting to fall apart,” Ketron said after Friday morning’s Chamber of Commerce Capitol Connection breakfast.
Ketron, R-Murfreesboro, said he expects to talk to liquor industry lobbyists to negotiate amendments allowing package stores to sell more items than liquor, wine and lottery tickets.
“It’ll be opening up to allow them to sell whatever they want to sell,” Ketron said. “It’ll open it up to allow them to purchase more than one store.”
Liquor store proprietors in Tennessee are limited to one store. But Ketron said he knows of one liquor store owner in Gatlinburg who wants to purchase four other stores there.
“Why should he be restricted to one if the other four want to sell?” Ketron said.
The bill goes to the Senate Finance Committee next and the full House Local Government Committee.
House Speaker Beth Harwell cast the deciding vote Wednesday to keep a wine-in-grocery-stores bill from failing in a House subcommittee.
Harwell, who has the right under House rules to sit and vote on any committee, voted twice in the House State Government Subcommittee.
First, she broke a 4-4 tie on a motion by Rep. Dale Carr, R-Sevierville, to delay action on the bill (HB610) until July, 2014. Carr said the delay – which would have effectively killed the bill – would provide “time to sit down on both sides and see if we can get something worked out.”
After Carr’s motion was defeated, Harwell then broke a 4-4 tie on the bill itself. With her vote, the measure advances out of the subcommittee for a vote next week in the full House State Government Committee.
Harwell said afterwards she felt it important to “show momentum” for the legislation in the House and hopes that will “bring folks to the table” from the opposing side to negotiate some compromise – probably to be incorporated into separate legislation.
The bill as introduced by Rep. Jon Lundberg, R-Bristol, would allow local governing bodies in cities or counties that already have liquor-by-the-drink and retail liquor stores to hold a local referendum on whether line could be sold in grocery stores and supermarkets within their jurisdiction.
The bill has now cleared its initial committee hurdles in both the House and Senate, though several remain before floor votes. Similar bills to straightforwardly legalize the sale wine in grocery stores – without the referendum provision – have failed repeatedly over the past five years.
By Erik Schelzig, Associated Press
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Contributions totaling more than $364,000 have poured into lawmakers’ campaign accounts over the past two years from liquor wholesalers, package stores and the beer industry — three groups that have traditionally opposed changing state law to allow wine to be sold in supermarkets.
An Associated Press analysis of campaign finance data shows that six of the 11 members of the Senate Finance Committee, which is scheduled to take up a bill Tuesday to hold local referendums on whether to expand wine sales, received a combined $38,000 from the three political action committees. Republican Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris of Collierville alone received $13,000. (Note: The vote was postponed until next week.)
The remaining five members of the Senate panel received no contributions from the three groups.
Norris, who voted against the measure when it eked out of the Senate State and Local Government Committee by a one-vote margin last week, did not immediately return a message seeking comment.
By Eric Schelzig, Associated Press
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — A proposal to allow wine to be sold in Tennessee supermarkets and convenience stores scored its first legislative victory on Tuesday after years of frustration.
The Senate State and Local Government Committee voted 5-4 to advance the bill that would allow cities and counties to hold referendums next year to decide whether to expand wine sales beyond the state’s nearly 600 licensed liquor stores.
Sen. Bill Ketron, R-Murfreesboro and the bill’s main sponsor, stressed that the wine votes would only be allowed in communities that have previously passed referendums to allow sales of liquor by the drink and retail package stores.
“Both of which wouldn’t be in your city or county if it did not get there by referendum,” he said. “All we’re doing with this bill is asking the same opportunity: Let your people vote.”
The measure would have to be approved by the Senate Finance Committee before heading for a full floor vote. The House began hearings on the measure on Tuesday, but a first vote had not yet been scheduled.
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Opponents of a proposal to allow communities to hold referendums on whether to allow wine to be sold in grocery stores argued Monday that the votes could do more harm than good.
The Senate State and Local Government Committee heard from opponents and supporters during a nearly two-hour meeting. The measure would leave it to voters in cities and counties to decide whether to expand wine sales beyond liquor stores.
A full committee vote on Tuesday will decide whether the measure advances or fails for yet another year. While allowing wine sales in supermarkets and convenience stores enjoys strong public support, it is strongly opposed by the liquor industry, package stores and religious groups.
Randy Davis, executive director of the Tennessee Baptist Convention, told the panel that he fears putting the wine measure before voters would have consequences similar to a recent campaign over allowing liquor-by-the drink sales in Pigeon Forge.
“Right now Pigeon Forge is polarized, families torn apartment, friendships ruined, because in our small communities they are battling over this liquor-by-the drink issue,” he said. “And the same thing is going to happen.”
Davis said lawmakers should stop short of putting more liquor issues on the ballot on the basis of convenience.
“We don’t know where this idea of convenience is going to lead us, we don’t know what the next step is,” he said. “Others before you have not put it at the feet of the voters to have wine in liquor stores and I beg of you not to take it there.”
Republican Sen. Janice Bowling of Tullahoma, who declined to give her position on the bill after the meeting, told Davis that several issues will affect her decision.
“As a teetotaling Baptist myself, I can assure that my vote will not be based on convenience, it’s going to be based on Tennesseans and what I’m hearing from my constituents my district,” she said.