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Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Bill to Sell Wine in Grocery Stores Hit's a Partisan Snag

The bill by Republican Sen. Bill Ketron of Murfreesboro hit a snag Tuesday in the Senate State and Local Government Committee, and will be delayed for two weeks. The companion bill is pending in the House.

This is the fourth year lawmakers have tried to pass the bill. Currently, grocery stores can't sell wine and liquor stores can't sell beer.

Ketron said opening up supermarket sales will create millions of dollars in revenue for the state as well as much needed jobs.

"It has a very positive fiscal impact," he said.

Jarron Springer, president of the Tennessee Grocers and Convenience Store Association, said a report from the Legislature's Fiscal Review Committee shows the sale of wine in supermarkets will general about $20 million for both state and local governments.

"It's time to make this move in Tennessee," Springer said. "This is good for the public."

Opponents, however, worry about the impact on existing liquor store owners or expanding the availability of alcohol.

Richard Fisher, executive director of the Tennessee Drug Awareness Council, told the committee that passing the legislation will have negative consequences for young people.

"That greater availability will lead to more drinking by our teenagers and youth here in Tennessee," he said.

Sen. Mike Faulk, a Kingsport Republican and member of the committee, cited statistics showing there more alcohol-related arrests stem from drinking beer than wine.

But Madison County Sheriff David Woolfork, who also testified before the panel, said he considers all types of alcohol to be a problem when it comes to underage drinking.

He said his biggest problem is convenience store clerks who fail to check for identification. Just last week, he said, there were seven convenience stores in his area that sold to underage individuals, which he believes is an indicator of what authorities will have to contend with across the state.

"My narcotics division is having to spend time just monitoring convenience stores," Woolfork said. "So I see this as an undue burden on law enforcement."

When asked if delaying the measure is an indication it may once again be nearing a demise, Springer said he didn't believe that to be the case.

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