House Speaker Beth Harwell single-handedly kept an effort alive that would allow grocery stores to begin selling wine. In a rare move, today she broke a tie in a legislative subcommittee.
The speaker can vote on any of the committees. And for the first time this year, Harwell chose to do so. She says it’s time to find a compromise that would still be agreeable to the state’s 600 liquor stores, which are the only places wine can be sold now.
“We don’t want to hurt those liquor stores, and we want to do everything we can to make this as palatable to them as possible," she said. "This brings everyone to the table to discuss it.”
In the Senate, Speaker Ron Ramsey has played a critical role in moving the wine-in-supermarkets legislation, admitting he structured one committee with the bill in mind.
The push to expand wine sales has been up against “t-totalers” and people concerned about small businesses. Rep. Richard Floyd of Chattanooga is both and voted no.
“I think you know my position on alcohol," he said. "If I could, I’d close every liquor store in the state. But they’re small business people.”
In previous years, liquor store lobbyists have successfully killed wine-in-supermarket legislation. The key difference is that this year’s bill requires local referendums on the issue.
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