The Senate Finance Committee approved amendments Tuesday that would loosen restrictions on liquor stores in a bid to break the impasse over new alcohol legislation.
But the committee put off a final vote on the bill for a week amid signs that the changes still were not enough to get the measure to the Senate floor.
“People are thinking we’re up here talking about putting wine in a grocery store,” said Sen. Jim Kyle, D-Memphis. “This bill today changes the entire distribution system of alcoholic beverages in this state, and I think we’ve moved awfully quickly.”
Still, the question of whether any such legislation has a glimmer of hope for this year rests largely on the other side of the Capitol.
The senators’ counterparts in the state House earlier this month appeared to drop the issue for the year, but senators have pressed ahead with Senate Bill 837, which would let voters at the county level decide through referendums whether to allow wine sales in local grocery stores.
Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey, R-Blountville, has said he would like to get the bill through the Finance Committee, a move that might pressure the House to reconsider or could set the framework for a final deal next year.
The Senate Finance Committee attached about half a dozen amendments to the bill, in some cases by one-vote margins. The changes appeared to be intended to win liquor stores and distributors — or at least some of their supporters in the legislature — over to the measure.
Nonetheless, the bill’s sponsor, state Sen. Bill Ketron, asked committee members to put off a vote on the bill itself. The Murfreesboro Republican told reporters later that he wanted to secure a couple of more votes on the 11-member panel before pressing ahead.
“Next Tuesday we’re running the bill,” he said.
Source: The Tennessean