Are Tennessee's wineries really threatened with closure and if so..why?
This is a "Constitutional" problem. A Federal Court is demanding that Tennessee change its winery laws. If TN does not change its winery law, then closing the TN wineries is an option the Federal Court may choose to enforce its demands.
Why can't the Federal Court change the law themselves?
Because the Courts can only affirm or strike down laws, they cannot change or CREATE laws.
Why is a Federal Court demanding that Tennessee change its "Grape and Wine Law"?
Because a wine shipping lawsuit was brought before the US 6th Circuit Court - Jelovsek v. Tennessee. While the Federal Court was reviewing the TN laws that regulate wine, it discovered that parts of the "TN Grape and Wine Law" discriminated against wineries and vineyards outside TN.
How does TN law "discriminate" against out-of-state wineries and vineyards?
The TN "Grape and Wine Law" includes wording that says: a TN winery can ONLY be owned by a current TN resident, TN wineries MUST to use TN grapes, and ONLY TN wineries can hold wine festivals in TN. A Federal Judge declared these rules unfair. Why isn't Oprah allowed to buy a TN winery? Why can't a Kentucky vineyard sell grapes to a TN winery? Why can't wineries located outside TN hold wine festivals inside TN?
But why does it matter if TN laws are unfair to those outside TN?
Because the Commerce Clause of the US Constitution prohibits a state from passing legislation that improperly burdens or discriminates against interstate commerce...and that is why a FEDERAL Judge is demanding the change to a TN law.
So what can be done to fix this?
The TN "Grape and Wine Law" has to be changed to meet the Federal Court's demands.
How does the law get changed?
TN wineries are working with TN legislators to change the law. House Bill 1549 and Senate Bill 0944 will change the wording in the "Grape and Wine Law" so it won't discriminate against out-of-state vineyards and wineries.
Does House Bill 1549 and Senate Bill 0944 do anything else, like allow wine to be sold in grocery stores or allow wine to be shipped to my house in TN?
HB1549 and SB0944 only change the wording in the TN "Grape and Wine Law" so that TN wineries can keep doing what they have been doing for the past 30 years while following the Court's demands. However, keeping the TN wine industry alive is another positive step for wine in TN, which will hopefully lead to more positive steps, like wine shipping and wine in grocery stores.
What happens if the TN Legislature does nothing?
Then a Federal Court will decide the TN wine industry's fate. Because the Court cannot "create" new law, they will not be able to change the laws regulating the TN wine industry..only strike them down...perhaps closing TN wineries.
How would closing the TN wineries affect the state of TN?
In a report done by MKF Research in 2007, the TN wine industry supports over 1600 full time jobs and has a positive economic impact in TN worth over $140 million! Closing the wineries would result in a huge negative ripple effect of lost jobs and lost revenue.
So, the TN Legislature wants to fix this, right?
We hope so! However, when it comes to passing new legislation, NOTHING is ever easy or "taken for granted". This issue seems easily fixed, but we have to get the word out and explain to our legislators why they have to pass these bills SOON!
Why are there TWO bills - HB1549 and SB0944?
Both bills say the same thing. The bills must pass by a majority vote of BOTH the TN House of Representatives and the TN Senate, then signed into law by the Governor. Thus, bills get introduced to both governing bodies, but not usually with the same number.
If this issue is so critical, why is the general public just now hearing about it?
This situation began with the Court decision on October 24, 2008. Elections then occurred Nov. 4, and the current TN General Assembly (Legislature) did not begin session until last month. Thus, it took until now for the TN wine industry to decide how to address the problem, propose legislation, find sponsors in the TN House and Senate, and get the bills introduced. Now comes the most critical step: getting the bills passed into law (i.e. getting TN legislators to vote "yes")!
Why isn't this getting much coverage in the Tennessee media?
The word is just now getting out - now that the winery bills have been filed and the issue is high priority. There has been some recent media attention, including last week on Nashville's WKRN News2 , and the lead story last night on Nashville's 10pm WSMV Channel 4 news. TN winery websites will soon be posting this info...and you are welcome to join this "cause" on facebook.com. Search facebook causes for "Save TN Wineries".
How can someone like me help?
TN legislators represent the people of Tennessee...so make your voices heard! If you don't already know your State Representative or State Senator, go to www.capitol.tn.gov/legislators to find them. Then contact them (via phone or email) and ask them to support TN wineries by voting yes on House Bill 1549 and Senate Bill 0944.
Also, please contact Gov. Phil Bredesen's office and ask him to support these bills as well. Govenor Bredesen can be reached at 615-741-2001 and firstname.lastname@example.org