Tennessee Senate Bill 837, which would allow for the sale of wine in grocery stores in Tennessee has passed its first hurdle in a committee vote yesterday, clearing the Senate State and Local Government Committee by a 5-4 vote in what some are viewing as a surprise outcome. The final tally was certain when Democratic Senator Reginald Tate of Memphis swung his vote to yes after many had expected him to do the opposite, which has allowed the bill to advance. Passage out of State and Local Government, however, does not guarantee the legislation a floor vote yet. Its next stop will be the Senate Finance, Ways, and Means Committee, where it also must pass. After passing both committees, it has to get a majority in the Senate Calendar Committee to be added to the legislative calendar for a floor debate and vote.
It will be during the committee process in both houses where the liquor lobby, well-financed and traditionally able to to promise members big campaign contributions for doing their bidding, will attempt to stop this legislation. For SB 837 to reach a floor vote in both Houses (where the votes almost certainly exist to pass it), its companion bill in the House of Representatives must also make its way through a similar committee process. In the House, it will begin in the Local Government Subcommittee where, if it gets a majority, it will be heard by the full House Committee on State and Local Government. If it should pass out of that committee, it will then likely move to the House Finance, Ways and Means Committee to be heard first by the general Subcommittee of Finance, Ways and Means. If it gets a majority there, it will be heard by the full committee. If, after all of this, SB 837 passes the House Finance, Ways and Means Committee it will then move to the House Calendar and Rules Committee. To be placed on the legislative calendar in the House, the bill must pass the Calendar Committee with a majority vote.
While this free market legislation has cleared its first important hurdle, it has a long way to go before we’ll see a vote on it, and it must pass each committee, it is important that citizens who support ending the monopoly on the sale of wine in Tennessee contact their local Representative and Senator and let them know that their consumer constituents are watching.
The yeas and nays in the Senate State and Local Government Committee were as follows:
Senators voting aye were: Johnson, Bowling, Green, Ketron, Tate — 5.
Senators voting no were: Yager, Harper, Norris, Stevens — 4.