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Many Wine Measures Making Ballot Across TN

Tennessee voters in 80 local jurisdictions across the state will have their say in November on whether or not to legalize wine sales at local grocery stores.

The election will cap an historic year for advocates of localizing control of wine sales. For years they’ve been pressing the state Legislature to ease a Tennessee-wide mandate that only liquor stores can sell wine. Legislation passed overwhelmingly in both the state House and Senate this year to grant voters in jurisdictions that already permit liquor-by-the-drink to authorize wine sales in certain retail outlets besides liquor stores.

Supporters of the measures had to gather signatures from 10 percent of voters in their communities by Aug. 21 to force referendums. Overall 262,247 signatures were gathered across the state by the campaign.

Susie Alcorn, who’s managing the wine-in-supermarkets ballot push for the grocery-industry backed group, Red White and Food, indicated in an email that supporters of the measures are in high spirits. “Our goal has always been to give Tennesseans the opportunity to vote on where wine can be sold in their communities. And now we know that 80 communities will get that opportunity in November.”

Murfreesboro Republican Bill Ketron, the Senate sponsor of the wine-in-groceries bill, said he “was a little nervous” as the signature-gathering deadline was approaching, when there were still a few big municipalities, like Nashville and Memphis, that hadn’t collected enough names to get a measure on the ballot.

“There were several cities I had concern over, but it appears now that they have qualified,” Ketron said Friday. “People will have an opportunity come November to say yes or no.”

Even though a local measure might passes this year, grocery stores won’t be able to sell wine before July 2016. However, under the new law, liquor stores have been freed to sell more products in the interim.

Ketron suggested that while liquor store-owners have in the past been “violently opposed” to sharing retail wine markets, they do appear to be taking full advantage of the two-year window the legislation granted. They’re becoming “convenience stores on steroids,” he said.

State Rep. Jon Lundberg, R-Bristol, the legislation’s House sponsor, told TNReport Friday that getting wine into grocery stores is a three-part process, and the second part — getting the proposal on the ballot — has gone “really well.” The first part of the process was getting it through the General Assembly.

“No. 3 is exactly what should happen — we give voters the opportunity to say whether they want to have wine in grocery stores and food retail stores in their municipality,” Lundberg said. “Now we’re set for November.”

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Press Releases

TN Grocers Prez: Liquor Retailers Behind Law Enforcement Opposition to Wine in Grocery Stores

Statement from Jarron Springer, President of the TN Grocers & Convenience Store Association; January 9, 2013:

It is disappointing that the liquor retailers would hide behind law enforcement officials in an effort to keep Tennessee consumers from having a voice in the wine in retail food stores debate.

A vote by the legislature in favor of the proposed bill will not place wine in our stores. Passage would only allow local communities to decide through a referendum as to whether wine would be available at retail food stores.

We respect law enforcement and have worked closely with them on the issue of underage drinking. The issue of wine in retail food stores has been debated for five years, and the statements made today mark the first time that a group of law enforcement officials has officially come out against the measure. We can only take that as a sign that the liquor lobby is concerned about the possibility of the bill passing and led the effort to bring the group together this morning.

If law enforcement is concerned about increased access to alcoholic beverages, then surely they will be opposed to future referendums on liquor-by-the-drink and package store availability, which are also handled on the local level.

The statement that increased access to wine is a public safety issue has been proved false by numerous sources, including the FBI. Wine sales in retail food stores are not linked to drunk driving or underage drinking. A study issued in December 2011 by the American Association of Wine Economists and Cornell University showed that “states with higher rates of wine consumption as a share of total alcohol consumption have lower rates of traffic fatalities.”

In addition, states that allow the sale of wine in grocery stores had an average of 21.7 fewer youth liquor violations per 100,000 residents than did states without wine in grocery stores (FBI).

Tennessee’s retail food stores asked for and helped to pass the Responsible Vendor Law. Under this law, all customers purchasing alcohol at a retail food store must show proof of age. Liquor stores do not have to abide by the same requirements.

Again, retail food stores look forward to a healthy and civil legislative debate on the subject of wine in retail food stores and the bill to allow local referendums. Upward of 70 percent of Tennesseans want to purchase wine where they shop for food. We urge the Tennessee General Assembly to let Tennesseans vote on this issue.

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Cornell University Study: http://grapesandwine.cals.cornell.edu/cals/grapesandwine/appellation-cornell/issue-9/loader.cfm?csModule=security/getfile&PageID=1053484

 

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Press Releases

100+ Law Enforcement Officials Agree: Wine too Dangerous for Grocery Store Sales

Press release from Tennessee Law Enforcement for Strong Alcohol Laws; January 9, 2013:

Nashville, Tenn. (January 9, 2013) – More than 100 Tennessee chiefs of police and sheriffs have signed a pledge calling on state legislators to oppose the sale of wine in grocery and convenience stores out of concern for public safety and health. The loose coalition called “Tennessee Law Enforcement for Strong Alcohol Laws” includes 106 law enforcement leaders from Tennessee communities of all sizes, including Knoxville, Memphis, Kingsport, and Jackson.

The announcement was made at Legislative Plaza by Madison County Sheriff David Woolfork and Belle Meade Police Chief Timothy Eads, representing their colleagues across the state. They were joined at the event by the police chiefs of Knoxville and Jackson, the sheriffs of Crockett, Chester, Haywood, and Marshall counties, and representatives of the Mt. Pleasant and Waynesboro police departments and Perry County sheriff’s office.

“Tennessee has among the strongest alcohol laws in the country and we want to keep it that way,” said Sheriff Woolfork. “The added convenience that supporters of this law want is not worth jeopardizing the life or safety of even one citizen of this state. As sheriffs and chiefs of police, we deal with the painful consequences of alcohol abuse every day. It makes no sense to increase the availability of high-proof alcohol and create new problems that other states with looser laws are trying to solve. Our departments can’t afford it and our state cannot afford it.”

Should the proposed bill pass, the number of stores selling high-proof alcohol could rise 10 fold, from fewer than 600 to over 5,000. Currently, wine and spirits can only be sold in specialty stores that must be owned by Tennesseans, are limited in size, can have only one door, and can sell only one product – alcohol. Woolfork emphasized that the proposed law would put high proof alcohol not only in grocery stores, but in convenience stores, truck stops, urban markets, gas stations and mega big box stores. None of these environments are tightly controlled, Woolfork said. Eads said high-proof alcohol should not be treated in the marketplace the same way as other grocery items.

“Wine is not a food product and should not be sold as one,” said Eads. “No one has ever overdosed or caused an accident by eating too many grapes. There’s an appropriate retail environment for selling wine and other high-proof spirits, and a convenience store or Walmart is not it.”

Wine contains up to 3 times the alcohol content as beer, which is why it belongs in tightly controlled environments, the law enforcement officials said. They stressed that young people in their communities do drink wine, particularly boxed and sweet wines, because it makes them intoxicated faster than beer.

National and international research demonstrates that increased alcohol availability leads to higher instances of underage drinking,  domestic violence and fatalities in a community. Woolfork said law enforcement departments are already struggling under tight budgets and this law would only make their jobs more difficult.

“There’s no question that the more stores you have selling high-proof alcohol the more problems law enforcement will have to deal with,” said Woolfork. “It’s not just grocery stores in suburban neighborhoods that will be impacted by the bill, but also markets in urban areas that are already struggling with crime. There’s no benefit to this bill other than consumer convenience. Some things shouldn’t be too convenient.”

Woolfork invited other state sheriffs, police chiefs and other members of law enforcement to join the effort and sign the pledge, and called on legislators to put public safety first.

“Take pride in the system we have put in place to control the sale of alcohol,” said Woolfork. “Tennessee is a model for other states of how to strike the right balance between access and control. We urge lawmakers to put safety before convenience and say no to putting wine in grocery and convenience stores.”

 

Participating Sheriffs and Chiefs:

SHERIFFS

  • Sheriff Tony King, Benton County
  • Sheriff James Ruth, Bradley County
  • Sheriff Chris Mathes, Carter County
  • Sheriff Blair Weaver, Chester County
  • Sheriff Armando Fontes, Cocke County
  • Sheriff Toy Klyce, Crockett County
  • Sheriff Roy Wyatt, Decatur County
  • Sheriff Jeff Box, Dyer County
  • Sheriff Tony Choate, Fentress County
  • Sheriff Charles W. Arnold, Gibson County
  • Sheriff Kyle Helton, Giles County
  • Sheriff Brent Myers, Grundy County
  • Sheriff Esco Jarnagin, Hamblen County
  • Sheriff Jim Hammond, Hamilton County
  • Sheriff Leamon Maxey, Hancock County
  • Sheriff Sammy Davidson, Hardin County
  • Sheriff Ronnie Lawson, Hawkins County
  • Sheriff Melvin Bond, Haywood County
  • Sheriff Brian Duke, Henderson County
  • Sheriff William Reece, Johnson County
  • Sheriff Steve Sanders, Lauderdale County
  • Sheriff Murray Blackwelder, Lincoln County
  • Sheriff Time Guider, Loudon County
  • Sheriff David Woolfork, Madison County
  • Sheriff Norman Dalton, Marshall County
  • Sheriff Jackie Melton, Meigs County
  • Sheriff Joe Guy, McMinn County
  • Sheriff Mark Logan, Moore County
  • Sheriff Tommy Hickerson, Perry County
  • Sheriff W.B. Melton, Overton County
  • Sheriff Michael Cross, Scott County
  • Sheriff Ronnie Hitchcock, Sequatchie County
  • Sheriff Ronald L. Seals, Sevier County
  • Sheriff Bill Oldham, Shelby County
  • Sheriff Ray Russell, Trousdale County
  • Sheriff Michael Hensley, Unicoi County
  • Sheriff Grayson Beasley, Van Buren County
  • Sheriff Jackie Matheny, Warren County

POLICE CHIEFS

  • Chief Jerry Christopher, Adamsville PD
  • Chief Mark Coulon, Ashland City PD
  • Chief Jessie Poole, Atoka PD
  • Chief Danny Holmes, Baxter PD
  • Chief Tim Eads, Belle Meade PD
  • Chief Roger Jenkins, Bells PD
  • Chief James Winstead, Blaine PD
  • Chief James Baker, Bolivar PD
  • Chief Chris Lea, Brownsville PD
  • Chief Paul McCallister, Burns PD
  • Chief John Hogan, Carthage PD
  • Chief Johnny E. Jones, Caryville PD
  • Chief Jackie King, Chapel Hill PD
  • Chief Hank Hayden, Charleston PD
  • Chief Rick Scarbrough, Clinton PD
  • Chief Daniel Farris, Collinwood PD
  • Chief Todd Bone, Cornersville PD
  • Chief Carson Williams, Dandridge PD
  • Chief Kim Wallace, Dover PD
  • Chief Randal Walker, Dresden PD
  • Chief Mark Moore, Erin PD
  • Chief Wayne Harris, Gordonsville PD
  • Chief Justin Powers, Grand Junction PD
  • Chief Richard Hatfield, Greenbrier PD
  • Chief Ricky DeSpain, Halls PD
  • Chief Raymond Simmons, Humbodlt PD
  • Chief Gill Kendrick, Jackson PD
  • Chief Ken Hancock, Jamestown PD
  • Chief Gale Osborne, Kingsport PD
  • Chief Jim Washam, Kingston PD
  • Chief David Rausch, Knoxville PD
  • Chief Judy Moore, Lawrenceburg PD
  • Chief Don White, Lenoir City PD
  • Chief Bobby Joe Killen, Loretto PD
  • Chief Tony Jay Crisp, Maryville PD
  • Chief Kim Barker, McKenzie PD
  • Director Toney Armstrong, Memphis PD
  • Chief Ronnie Williams, Millersville PD
  • Chief Virgil McNeece, Monteagle PD
  • Chief Roger Overholt, Morristown PD
  • Chief Willie Jackson, Moscow PD
  • Chief Tommy Goetz, Mount Pleasant PD
  • Chief James A. Hambrick, Mt. Juliet PD
  • Chief James T. Akagi, Oak Ridge PD
  • Chief Richard Jewell, Oakland PD
  • Chief Royce Aker, Obion PD
  • Chief Darryl Laxton, Oneida PD
  • Chief Thomas Elizondo, Paris PD
  • Chief Michael Douglas, Pleasant View PD
  • Chief Richard Smith, Portland PD
  • Chief Terry Parker, Powells Crossroads PD
  • Chief John Dickey, Pulaski PD
  • Chief Terry Tuck, Red Boiling Springs PD
  • Chief Jeffrey A. White, Ridgetop PD
  • Chief Jerry Temple, Ripley PD
  • Chief Mike Hensley, Rutherford PD
  • Chief Richard McGinnis, Rutledge PD
  • Chief Donald Derr, Savannah PD
  • Chief David Alexander, Scotts Hill PD
  • Chief Ricky Hoskins, Somerville PD
  • Chief Eddie Carter, Spencer PD
  • Chief Don Brite, Spring Hill PD
  • Chief Will Sanders, Trenton PD
  • Chief David Smith, Trezevant PD
  • Chief Joe Hall, Watertown PD
  • Chief George Barturen, Waynesboro PD
  • Chief Mike Holman, White Bluff PD
  • Chief Steven Stanley, Whiteville PD
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Press Releases

State Wine-Production Advisory Board to Meet Late January

Press release from the Tennessee Department of Agriculture; January 8, 2012:

NASHVILLE – The Tennessee Viticulture Advisory Board will meet Jan. 25 at 3:30 p.m. CST at the Airport Marriot Hotel, in Nashville, Tenn. The agenda includes VAB member review and recommendations, 2012 grape crop, Stonebridge Research Study and other business.

The meeting is open to the public. Individuals interested in addressing the board should plan to arrive prior to the start of the meeting in order to be placed on the agenda.

The Tennessee Viticulture Advisory Board advises the Tennessee Department of Agriculture on matters pertaining to grape growing and wine production in Tennessee. For more information, contact Dan Strasser, director of marketing with the Tennessee Department of Agriculture at 615-837-5160, or e-mail Dan.Strasser@TN.gov.

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Press Releases

Liquor Lobby Named Naughtiest to Taxpayers, Consumers by Free-Market TN Think Tank

Press Release from the Beacon Center of Tennessee, Dec. 12, 2011:

Liquor Lobby Receives Lump of Coal Award for Thwarting Wine in Grocery Stores

NASHVILLE – The Beacon Center of Tennessee (formerly the Tennessee Center for Policy Research) today announced the Wine & Spirits Wholesalers of Tennessee as the recipient of its 2011 Lump of Coal Award.

The Beacon Center awards this dubious distinction annually to the person or group in Tennessee who, more than any other during the past year, acted as a Grinch to Tennesseans by bah-humbugging the principles of liberty and limited government.

For the first time, the 2011 Lump of Coal Award was chosen directly by Tennesseans in an online poll. Respondents chose from a list of five finalists selected by Beacon Center staff. The Wine & Spirits Wholesalers received the most votes for the not-so-coveted prize, beating out Nashville’s Metropolitan Development and Housing Agency by a single vote.

The Lump of Coal Award goes to the association for its actions to prevent grocery stores from selling wine in the state, a measure that 33 states allow and one that would benefit Tennesseans economically.

“The liquor lobby, led by the Wine & Spirits Wholesalers of Tennessee, has used questionable tactics to scare rural Tennesseans and lawmakers into erroneously believing that allowing grocery stores to sell wine will bring about some type of booze-propelled chaos, all in an effort to protect its powerful monopoly over wine,” said Justin Owen, the Beacon Center’s president and CEO.

“Despite the fact that nearly three out of four Tennesseans want to end the Prohibition-era restrictions on wine, their calls were yet again drowned out by this formidable lobbying force. Maybe the association’s leadership can wash down its lump of coal with a nice bottle of cabernet, purchased exclusively from a liquor store, of course.”

The Beacon Center of Tennessee is an independent, nonprofit, and nonpartisan organization committed to providing free market solutions to public policy issues in Tennessee. Through research, advocacy, and investigative reporting, the Center advances ideas grounded in the principles of free markets, individual liberty, and limited government.

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Press Releases

MTSU Poll: Tennesseans Don’t Like Teacher Tenure; Split on Eliminating Collective Bargaining; Favor Wine in Grocery Stores

Press Release from the Middle Tennessee State University Survey Group, March 2, 2011:

Obama would lose to a Republican opponent, but his low approval rating has stabilized

MURFREESBORO, Tenn. – Tennesseans take a dim view of teacher tenure but show no consensus on whether to do away with collective bargaining power for teacher unions, the latest MTSU Poll finds.

Fifty-four percent of state residents choose the statement, “Tenure makes it hard to get rid of bad teachers” as most representative of their viewpoint, while 29 percent choose the alternative statement, “Tenure protects good teachers from being fired without just cause” as most indicative of what they think. Sixteen percent say they don’t know, and the rest decline to answer.

Meanwhile, 37 percent of Tennesseans favor “eliminating the ability of teacher unions in Tennessee to negotiate with local boards of education about teacher salaries, benefits and other employment issues.” But a statistically equivalent 41 percent oppose such a move, and a substantial 22 percent are undecided.

“Compared to public opinion about teacher tenure, public opinion about collective bargaining for teacher unions seem to be still taking shape in Tennessee,” said Dr. Ken Blake, director of the MTSU Poll. “The people most likely to have any opinion at all on the collective bargaining issue are also, based on other measures in the poll, the ones most likely to be politically active and politically knowledgeable. They probably are creating a framework for the debate and soon will start contending with each other for the support of those who are undecided.”

Conducted Feb. 14 – 26, 2011 by Middle Tennessee State University’s College of Mass Communication, the telephone poll of 589 Tennessee adults chosen at random from across the state has an error margin of plus or minus four percentage points at the 95 percent level of confidence. Full results are available on the poll’s website, www.mtsusurveygroup.org.

The poll also finds President Obama currently trailing whoever the Republican 2012 presidential nominee might be. Thirty-one percent of Tennesseans say they would vote for Obama if the election were held today, but a 48 percent plurality say they would vote instead for “his Republican opponent.” 14 percent say that they don’t know who they would vote for at this time, and 6 percent volunteer that they would vote for neither candidate.

The downward slide in Obama’s approval rating among Tennesseans seems to have leveled off, though, according to Dr. Jason Reineke, associate director of the MTSU Poll.

“The president’s approval rating stands at 39 percent in Tennessee, a possible uptick from his 35 percent approval rating in our Fall 2010 poll,” Reineke said. “But, of course, he’s still down quite a bit compared to his 53 percent approval rating in the Spring 2009 MTSU Poll.”

In other findings, three in four Tennesseans considers illegal immigration a “somewhat” or “very” serious problem, and a 42 percent plurality describe as “about right” the new Arizona immigration law’s requirement that police making a stop, detention, or arrest must attempt to determine the person’s immigration status if police suspect the person is not lawfully present in the country. Another 25 percent say such a law “doesn’t go far enough,” and 28 percent say it “goes too far.”

Additionally, 55 percent characterize as “about right” the Arizona law’s requirement that people produce documents proving their immigration status if asked by police. Twenty-three percent say that aspect of the law doesn’t go far enough, and 17 percent say it goes too far.

Meanwhile, closing the Tennessee’s projected budget gap could prove politically difficult for state lawmakers.

A 52-percent majority of state residents think dealing with the budget gap will require either cutting important services (16 percent), raising state taxes (6 percent) or both (30 percent). Despite these attitudes, though, Tennesseans show little support for cuts to any of five of the state’s largest general fund budget categories. Only 25 percent of state residents favor cuts to TennCare, 14 percent favor cuts to K-12 education, 24 percent favor cuts to higher education, and 17 percent favor cuts to children’s services. Cuts to a fifth major budget category, prisons and correctional facilities, drew the most support (44 percent), but the figure is still well below a majority.

Asked about gun regulation, Tennesseans divide essentially evenly on whether laws governing the sale of guns should be kept at their current levels (43 percent) or made more strict (41 percent). Similarly, 45 percent of Tennesseans say they would support a nationwide law banning the sale of high-capacity ammunition clips, defined in the poll question as those that hold more than 10 bullets. But a statistically equivalent 42 percent say they would oppose such a law.

In still other poll findings:

  • Sixty-nine percent of Tennesseans favor letting food stores sell wine.
  • A 50 percent plurality think Congress should repeal the health care law.
  • Support remains high for the religious rights of Muslims.
  • Tennesseans think neither President Obama nor Congressional Republicans are doing enough to cooperate with each other.
  • More Tennesseans approve than disapprove of new governor, legislature, but many are undecided.

For over a decade, the Survey Group at MTSU has been providing independent, non-partisan and unbiased public opinion data regarding major social, political, and ethical issues affecting Tennessee. The poll began in 1998 as a measure of public opinion in the 39 counties comprising Middle Tennessee and began measuring public opinion statewide in 2001. Learn more and view the full report at www.mtsusurveygroup.org.

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Environment and Natural Resources Liberty and Justice Tax and Budget

Time to Talk About Wine Again

A joint legislative study group is set to uncork another round of discussion Tuesday on changing Tennessee law to allow wine sales in grocery stores.

Leading the committee is Sen. Bill Ketron, R-Murfreesboro, who said that just as in the group’s first hearing in late October, he’ll allot mic time to both advocates and opponents of the proposed legislation leftover from last year.

But Ketron, a supporter of the wine-in-grocery-stores bills, said he’s also asked a “neutral party” to corroborate published estimates  — challenged by some who oppose legalizing wine sales outside liquor stores — that as much or more than $17 million dollars in additional state tax revenue could be pressed annually from the private sector if grocery store wine sales were permitted.

For three years now, proponents of bringing Tennessee’s retail wine laws in line with 33 other states have been pushing the issue in the Legislature. For three years they’ve come up empty.

Largely responsible thus far for vanquishing vino drinkers’ visions of greater choice are the Tennessee Wine and Spirits Retailers Association and the Wine and Spirits Wholesalers of Tennessee, who’ve lobbied heavily against allowing supermarkets to compete in the retail wine market.

“The future of 550 independent Tennessee-owned small businesses, and their over 3,000 employees, are being threatened,” Chip Christianson, a Nashville liquor store owner and board member for the TWSRA, told the study group during its last meeting.

“How many lost jobs and lost Tennessee businesses are worth a little more convenience for a very few?” he asked.

Christianson also suggested during the hearing that grocery store employees are not reliably capable of determining if customers seeking to purchase “high-proof alcohol products” are of legal age.

One strategy Ketron and his allies are employing to try and cobble together more political support this time around is to invite some of the traditional foes of grocery store wine sales to belly up to the bargaining table.

Retail liquor store owners tend to labor under some pretty onerous restrictions themselves, said Ketron, so it’s probably time to consider reforming a whole range of the state’s three-quarters-of-a-century-old booze-business laws.

Today’s hearing will include discussions about problematic regulatory issues that hinder them as well, he said.

For example, state laws prohibits liquor stores from selling products like ice, beer and non-alcoholic drink mixers and proprietors are banned from owning more than one outlet. Ketron, who also chairs the Senate State and Local Government Committee, said he’d like to see those rules relaxed, too.

Basically, Tennessee’s business regulations that govern the sale of alcohol are antiquated and in need of updating across the board, he said.

“Many of (the laws) go back to the early 1930s, around the time Prohibition was repealed,” said Ketron. “They’ve become convoluted…and it’s basically led to the jumbled mess that we have today.”

The hearing starts this afternoon at 1:30 (agenda-pdf). Watch it online here.