Pro-liquor PAC's playing role in wine bill

Pro-liquor PAC's playing role in wine bill

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By MIKE KRAFCIK
6 News Reporter

KNOXVILLE (WATE)— Lawmakers in Nashville are expected to once again debate whether to allow wine sales in grocery stores.

It is a perennial issue, but this year efforts to make the change have seemed to get more traction.  

Meanwhile, groups on both sides have been funneling contributions to lawmakers.  

Representative Ryan Haynes is advocating that any change in current law be differed in several years to give liquor stores owners time to adjust to the new competition.

Haynes has only proposed one bill this legislative session, a liquor related bill.  

A look at campaign finance records show that Haynes is receiving some of the largest contributions out of any law maker.  

Thad Cox Jr. the owner of Ashe's Wine and Spirits worries that it could take years to revamp his business model if wine is allowed in grocery stores. He's contacted state legislators, like Republican Rep. Ryan Haynes of Knoxville.

The store has contributed $500 to the Haynes campaign in 2012.    

"I don't think he's made his mind up on this issue, but I do know he's one of the few legislators that will be put through the battle, the fight if the legislation goes through the committee," said Cox.  

Republican Rep. Jon Lundberg of Bristol is a main sponsor of a wine in grocery store bill expected to drafted soon.  

Haynes said liquor store owners should be given three to five years to get out of their existing leases or to change their business models if they no longer have the exclusive right to sell wine.  

Haynes, chairman of the House's State Government Committee, said any proposal also should allow liquor stores to sell items such as beer, ice and mixers which would require new equipment and store layouts.  

"We thought this would be an opportunity to change their business model, but I don't think this is something groceries are going to go for," Haynes said.

Haynes tells 6 News that pro-liquor PAC's and liquor stores approached him because he's favorable to small businesses and because of his position as chair of the House State Government Committee.  

"Naturally, you're going to receive money from the side my position has always been that we need to advocate for small business owners in the state," said Haynes.  

Haynes received $3,900 from liquor lobbies and liquor stores in 2012. The largest, a $2,000 PAC contribution from the Wine & Spirits Wholesalers of Tennessee. 

Haynes received $1,000 from the Tennessee Wine & Spirits Retailers Good Government Fund.  

From the wine and grocery store side, Haynes received one $250 PAC contribution from Publix on November 12, 2012.

"In no way, would a political contribution affect the way I vote," Haynes said.   Democratic Rep. Joe Armstrong of Knoxville received a total of $1,000 in pro-liquor PAC money in 2012.  

Unlike Haynes, Armstrong says he's actually reached out to PAC's to get support.  

"The guys who are fighting against it are the local guys; they're the local distributors, the local retailers. I will stick with the local people all day long," Armstrong said.  

Haynes has received a number of PAC contributions from beer lobbies.

The largest, a $1,500 a PAC called Wholesalers Association, a PAC affiliated with the malt liquor industry.  

Haynes does not anticipate the legislation will come through his committee. A wine in grocery store bill in its current form would likely go through local referendum.  

On Monday, Haynes introduced a bill to decrease the residency requirements for the issuance of a retailer license to sell alcoholic beverages.

The bill specifies a retailer's license could be issued to individuals who are residents of the state for at least one year or had been a resident of the state for five consecutive years.

The current law mandates retailers must be a resident for two years, or a resident of the state for ten consecutive years. Other members of Knox County's delegation received contributions from groups connected with this issue last year.  

State election finance records show contributions from liquor store lobbyists to State Sen. Becky Duncan-Massey, Republican Rep. Harry Brooks of Knoxville and Republican Rep. Steve Hall of Knoxville.  

State Sen. Massey has also received contributions from a group supporting wine in grocery stores, as did State Sen. Randy McNally and Republican Rep. Roger Kane of Knoxville.

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