Here we go again. Last month, Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey said he expects a long debated bill to allow wine to be sold in Tennessee grocery stores finally will be approved when the state General Assembly reconvenes next year.
Current Tennessee law only allows wine to be sold in liquor stores. A bill has been filed to allow local referendums on wine sales in supermarkets to be held in communities that have previously passed referendums to allow sales of liquor by the drink and retail package stores.
That bill, sponsored by state Rep. Jon Lundberg, R-Bristol, was derailed earlier this year by a vote in Local Government Committee of the state House of Representatives. That’s when the committee’s chairman, state Rep. Matthew Hill, R-Jonesborough, surprised his colleagues by voting “no” on the legislation.
Ramsey told the Associated Press in September he now believes that vote may have opened the eyes of some of his colleagues in the Senate.
“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.”
Meanwhile, Hill recently told Press staff writer Gary B. Gray he has not taken a position on wine being sold in supermarkets and is willing to resume debate on the matter in the next session of the General Assembly. Hill said he is willing to revisit the legislation in his committee if certain matters are addressed.
“I voted the way I did because debate was cut off and amendments were not allowed to be considered,” he told the Press. “I’ve talked with business owners, and they understand it’s a matter of when, not if a bill will pass. I wouldn’t be going into this with my mind made up that I would vote for the bill.
“There must be debate and discussion, even if it’s an uncomfortable discussion about amendments. If that’s done, we’ll pick up where we left off.”
We’d like to hear from you. Do you think Hill should change his vote on the wine in grocery stores bill, or should the legislation be denied passage?
Send your comments to Mailbag, P.O. Box 1717 Johnson City, TN 37605-1717, or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Please include your name, telephone number and address for verification. We will print your responses on the Opinion pages in the coming weeks.