published Friday, April 6th, 2012

Tennessee senate passes beer board bill

NASHVILLE — A bill sailed through the state Senate on Thursday to require the state’s Alcoholic Beverage Commission to consider suspending or revoking liquor licenses of restaurants and bars after local boards have revoked their licenses to sell beer.

The bill, which passed on a 29-0 vote, also covers nearly 10 other counties.

Local lawmakers introduced the measure, which creates a two-year pilot project, at the request of Chattanooga Mayor Ron Littlefield. The mayor has complained that the ABC often does not follow up on actions by the city’s Beer Board.

Local boards will suspend or revoke an establishment’s beer license, “but the corresponding liquor license would not be suspended by the ABC,” Sen. Bo Watson, R-Hixson, told the Senate. “So the establishment would continue to operate and the problem that was trying to be mitigated by the suspension of the beer license would continue.

The bill also requires local beer boards to follow up on ABC actions

Rep. Richard Floyd, R-Chattanooga, sponsored a House version of the bill that passed Monday, but because Watson allowed some Senate colleagues to include their counties, the measure now must go back to the other chamber for final action before going to the governor.

“I believe that under current law that actually this practice I’m now putting into code can take place but there’s simply been a failure of effective communication between the beer boards and the Alcoholic Beverage Commission,” Watson said.

In other actions Thursday:

• School board bill: A proposal that would allow school board members to participate in meetings remotely is headed to the governor for his consideration.

The measure was sent to Gov. Bill Haslam on Thursday after the Senate agreed to minor changes made by the House.

• Abstinence bill: A measure that would require “family life education” curricula taught in schools to be abstinence-centered has passed the Senate.

The measure sponsored by Republican Sen. Jack Johnson of Franklin was approved 28-1 on Thursday. The companion bill is awaiting a vote in the House Education Committee.

The legislation has become an alternative to a proposal that seeks to ban the teaching of gay issues to elementary and middle school students.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

• Horse slaughter: A Tennessee attorney general’s opinion says a legislative proposal to require large deposits before people could mount a legal challenge to a horse slaughterhouse is constitutionally suspect.

The bill sponsored by Rep. Andy Holt would require a bond equal to 20 percent of the worth of a horse slaughterhouse or processing plant from anyone filing a lawsuit against the facility.

• Drug testing: Tennessee’s attorney general says a proposal that would drug test people as a condition of receiving welfare is still questionable despite being amended.

In an opinion last month, Attorney General Bob Cooper said the original bill would violate the constitutional rights of welfare recipients who have a right not to be drug tested unless there is suspicion that they are taking illicit drugs.

The legislation was amended to propose testing people who have been convicted of violating the state’s Drug Control Act in the last five years.

However, Cooper opined this week that a court would still likely require the state establish “some quantum of suspicion” before drug testing a welfare applicant, including those with drug violations within the last five years.

about Andy Sher...

Andy Sher is a Nashville-based staff writer covering Tennessee state government and politics for the Times Free Press. A Washington correspondent from 1999-2005 for the Times Free Press, Andy previously headed up state Capitol coverage for The Chattanooga Times, worked as a state Capitol reporter for The Nashville Banner and was a contributor to The Tennessee Journal, among other publications. Andy worked for 17 years at The Chattanooga Times covering police, health care, county government, ...

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