House committee votes down wine in grocery stores

House committee votes down wine in grocery stores

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By SAMANTHA MANNING
6 News Reporter

NASHVILLE (WATE) - A bill that would allow voters to decide if grocery stores should sell wine failed in the legislature Tuesday, likely killing the bill for the year.

The vote comes after two unprecedented votes in favor of the bill moved it along the furthest it has ever gone in the legislature.

The bill's sponsor, Rep. Jon Lundberg asked the House Local Government Committee to delay the bill a week, but was rejected.

Instead, committee members took a vote on the bill Tuesday, and despite two previous legislative approvals, it failed by a single vote.

Liquor store owners applauded the House and Government Committee after voting down a bill that would allow voters to decide if grocery stores should sell wine through a referendum in a vote of 8-7.

Rep. Dale Carr who represents part of Sevier County and Rep. Steve Hall from Knoxville both voted against the measure.

6 News spoke with Hall, who told us the money he received from a liquor lobby PAC did not influence his vote.

"$600 won't influence a vote, and I think if you look at it, which the media hasn't mentioned, if you look at what the other side has given individuals, if you look at that, I wont mention any names, there was overwhelmingly a lot more money, not from the liquor industry but from the grocery industry," Rep. Hall said.

Local liquor store owners were happy with the results.

"We're fortunate the way the vote turned out," said David Purvis of Farragut Wines & Spirits. "This was a close one so you know we're counting our blessings."

"I think our bill was to let the people of Tennessee vote and I think it's very unfortunate the legislators doesn't see fit to let Tennesseans vote on whether to be able to buy wine in a supermarket," said Food City CEO and President Steve Smith.

Rep. Sherry Jones wasn't present for the vote, a move that very well could have affected the outcome.

If there was a tie, Speaker Beth Harwell was there to break it as she did last week in a Senate committee, when she voted in favor of the bill.

"Somebody not being there to vote changed the vote and we're thankful," Purvis said.

For the first time in state history, the bill passed in two committees this year, first in the Senate Local Government Committee and then the House Local Government subcommittee.

Proponents of the bill say making it this far is still a positive step for them.

"We'll continue that momentum forward. I mean, we've made tremendous strides," said Tennessee Grocers and Convenience Stores Association President Jarron Springer. "We were in this for the long haul, so we'll continue our efforts."

The Senate Finance Ways and Means Committee voted Tuesday morning to delay the bill, but because of the House committee, the bill will likely stop there.

Supporters say they plan to come right back next year and make their pleas to legislators again.

The only way the bill can return this session is if a representative changes his or her vote, which is not expected.

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