Campus booze bill fails on House floor

A bill authorizing sale of alcoholic beverages for the first time on a Tennessee university campus during sports events failed on the House floor after critics declared it would set a bad precedent in a state where there’s already ample alcohol available through efforts of the liquor lobby.

The bill (HB2011) is sponsored by Rep. Pat Marsh (R-Shelbyville) at the request of Middle Tennessee State University officials who, he said, wanted a more “controlled environment” for sale of alcohol at athletic events as well as the resulting revenue. He noted that there are currently alcohol sales at some other universities, though those facilities are technically not part of the campus and the bill would thus be the first such on-campus authorization.

On the House floor Thursday, the bill got 45 yes votes with 50 required for passage. There were 35 no votes and four members officially abstaining – with another 15 who did not press a button to vote officially (either absent or simply dodging a vote on the record). Under relevant rules, it can be brought back for another try.

Leading critics in the speechmaking were Reps. Jason Zachary (R-Knoxville) and Andy Holt (R-Dresden). Zachary said passage would create a “very dangerous precedent” in a state where the legislature already regularly passes bills to legalize alcohol sales in “warehouses, outhouses or whatever” in a state where more than 1,000 traffic fatalities were attributed last year to impaired driving. (The actual number of alcohol-related fatalities was 223 out of a total of 1,037 traffic deaths in 2016, according to state and federal statistics).

Holt asked Marsh if he would accept an amendment to allow alcohol sales “at a couple of high schools” in his district. While that suggestion might seem a joke, Holt said that under the influence of “the same liquor lobby that’s pushing all these bills… We’re going to be giving mini-bottles to kindergarteners.”

Besides Marsh (who said he had declined a request from Tennessee State University officials to be included in the bill, saying they should seek authorization through separate legislation), chief supporters of the measure in floor speeches were Reps. Bill Sanderson (R-Kenton) and Terri Lynn Weaver (R-Lancaster).

“I am in favor of responsible drinking,” said Weaver after stressing that MTSU officials requested the measure. “As the scripture says, moderation in all things we do.”

Sanderson said college athletic events already have “coolers and kegs of beer” available, sometimes consumed by underage youths without any supervision, at tailgate parties and the like. Passage of the bill would mean moving such activities “off the parking lots and into a controlled environment” with all servers holding permits from the state Alcoholic Beverage Commission.

Note: The chief booze bill of the session, which authorizes sale of bottled wine and spirits on Sundays (HB1540), is scheduled for a House floor vote this coming Thursday. The Senate companion bill is before the Senate Finance Committee on Tuesday.

3 Responses to Campus booze bill fails on House floor

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.


Posts and Opinions about Tennessee politics, government, and legislative news.