A bill advanced in the state House on Tuesday allowing local votes on the sale of wine at grocery stores.
It advanced in committee after nearly two hours of debate from both sides of the issue, Having now been given the green light in the House Local Government Committee, the bill will travel to the House Finance, Ways & Means Committee.
Rep. Matthew Hill (R-Jonesborough) said, "As I have said from the beginning, I take the legislative process very seriously and believe our committee system is in place to allow lawmakers on both sides of an issue the opportunity to thoroughly debate ideas in an open and transparent environment.
"Fortunately, this time around, both sides had ample time to present their arguments and were able to engage in healthy, well-rounded, and lively debate. This is why, today, I decided to vote in favor of this bill - a bill I believe gives a voice to the people of our state to decide what is best for their local communities."
Once passed by both legislative chambers and signed into law by Governor Haslam, communities across the state will have the opportunity to petition for a referendum vote to allow wine to be sold in local grocery stores. The same way referendum votes can currently be called to allow liquor by the drink, package stores, and similar measures, this legislation allows local municipalities to do the same regarding wine in grocery stores, it was stated.
Rep. Hill said, "As I made sure to clarify with legislative lawyers during debate, we have also placed a safeguard in the bill to allow communities to reverse their decision if they are not happy after approving wine in grocery stores. Just as communities can vote by simple majority to allow wine to be sold, they also have the power to undo this decision by another simple majority referendum.
"I believe the passage of this legislation is a huge victory for the people of Tennessee. Instead of dictating to local governments how they must conduct their own business, we have given a strong voice and final decision making power back to local communities where it belongs."