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Tennessee House passes 'wine in grocery stores' bill

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The Tennessee House of Representatives has passed its own version of a so-called "wine in grocery stores" bill that could allow for the sale of wine in grocery stores in Tennessee provided that local communities agree to those sales in a referendum. The referendum provision is one of several clauses in the legislation that are seen as compromises to appease the liquor store lobby, which fears that state licensed liquor stores that held a monopoly on the sale of wine for years in the volunteer State will actually have to compete for the wine business.

In a heated debate on the House floor yesterday that lasted over an hour as part of a Thursday sitting of the House that ran over two and a half hours on the last day of the week that the body normally sits, several opponents of the bill called it "crony capitalism" that was being passed to appeal to "special interests," but Representative Ryan Haynes (R-Knoxville) said that many of the opponents of selling wine in grocery stores in Tennessee had other motivations aside from protecting the so-called "mom and pop" businesses of the State licensed liquor stores, whose monopoly on wine sales was assured during the many decades of Democratic rule in Nashville by one of the most powerful and entrenched lobbies on Capitol Hill. "Some of the individuals saying that wouldn't vote for the alcohol bills anyway, they'd take us back to prohibition if they could," Haynes told WATE-TV and other media.

The bill ended up passing the House by a wide margin despite the long debate, pleasing its prime sponsor, Rep. Jon Lundberg (R-Bristol).

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