Williams: More discussion needed before passing wine in grocery stores bill

10:00 am | January 29, 2014

A local state representative cited lack of local support and questionable legislative tactics in voting against a measure that would ultimately allow communities in Tennessee to approve the sale of wine in grocery stores.

Photo by Brandon Hicks State Rep. Kent Williams speaks during a meeting of the Carter County Commission on July 15, 2013. Williams voted against a bill that would, if passed, alter the state’s liquor laws to accommodate selling wine in grocery stores, or, “retail food stores.”

On Tuesday evening, state Rep. Kent Williams, Ind. – Elizabethton, voted against House Bill 47 during a meeting of the Tennessee House of Representatives State Government Committee, only to see the measure pass by a significant majority.

The bill was separated from a related bill, HB 610, and sets the qualifying definitions for wine, and defines a “retail food store” as a place that has no less than 2,000 square feet for retail and earns 20 percent of its taxable revenue from the sale of food or food ingredients. HB 610 would, if passed, authorize localities the right to call for a referendum to vote on whether to allow wine to be sold in grocery stores.

Originally, the two bills were one and the same, until last night, when they were separated and given to the two committees. HB 47, which concentrated more on the regulatory aspect of state liquor law, went to the State Government Committee, while HB 610, which was voted on and passed in the state’s Local Government Committee, would grant communities the right for referendum.

According to Williams, he received the 28-page bill roughly 12 hours before he and the other members of the State Government Committee were to meet. Because the changes to the legislation were so drastic, and long, Williams said more time should have been taken before making a decision on it.

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