Tennesseans are one step closer to seeing wine on the shelves in their local grocery stores and convenience stores after the bill passed a key vote Wednesday in a House subcommittee.
The vote was a nail biter, as it appeared the House Local Subcommittee would split 4 to 4, but in a rare move the House Speaker showed up to the meeting and exercised her right to vote in any committee.
Speaker Beth Harwell, R-Nashville, ended up splitting the tie in favor of advancing the bill farther than it has ever gone before in the state Legislature.
"I did have an opportunity to meet with the subcommittee prior to the meeting. I don't believe I put any undo pressure on anyone. I just wanted to get an accurate count for myself, and I just felt like it was important for it to come out," Harwell said.
The companion bill last week cleared its first Senate committee by a single vote, and both supporters and opponents expected the House panel vote to be close.
Proponents of the bill note that the bill calls for cities and counties to hold referendums on the bill, meaning no area would automatically allow wine sales in grocery stores.
Opponents argue that the change would negatively affect the state's existing liquor stores, which have the exclusive license to sell wine under current law.
Harwell said she thinks lawmakers will be able to create a bill that liquor store owners are happy with, including some possible concessions such as extended hours or the ability to sell more than just liquor.
Liquor store owners, however, said they don't want those changes and would prefer things to remain the same.
Regardless, the wine in grocery stores bill is moving through the Legislature, where its next stop will be in the Senate Finance Committee next week.
Copyright 2013 WSMV (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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