NASHVILLE - A years-long effort to allow Tennessee grocery stores to sell wine narrowly cleared a key Senate committee today with a provision requiring local voters first approve such sales.
Senate State and Local Government Committee members approved the bill on a 5-4 vote after narrowly batting down an amendment permitting liquor stores to sell other items if a referendum passes allowing grocery stores to sell wine.
Voters would decide the issue by referendums only in those communities that previously have approved liquor-by-the-drink and package store sales.
The bill's sponsor, Senate Republican Caucus Chairman Bill Ketron, R-Murfreesboro, argued voters should have the right to make the decision.
Two area lawmakers split on the bill with State and Local Government Committee Chairman Ken Yager, R-Harriman, voting no and Sen. Janice Bowling, R-Tullahoma, voting yes.
Republican Speaker Ron Ramsey, who has championed the bill, has acknowledged he doesn't know if it will pass on the Senate floor. The measure's future in the House is equally uncertain. Liquor stores, liquor distributors and the Southern Baptist Convention fiercely oppose changes.