McCormick Says Legislators Are Likely To Pass Bill For Chattanooga Whiskey If Requested By County Commission; Henry Sees Possible Legal Problems Requiring 2014 Referendum

Friday, November 23, 2012

House Majority Leader Gerald McCormick said the local legislative delegation will likely pass a bill making possible the production of whiskey in Hamilton County if requested to do so by the County Commission.

He said the legislative delegation at one time had a tradition that it not approve local bills unless all members of the delegation were in agreement. But he said in recent years that tradition has been eased.

Rep. Richard Floyd is a foe of the whiskey bill. Rep. McCormick said he understands "that is based on his deeply-held personal belief." But he said the legislative delegation still would likely get together to discuss the measure and may move forward with it.

First it must get the signatures of six members of the County Commission. Chairman Larry Henry said five has signed thus far - himself, Greg Beck, Warren Mackey, Joe Graham and Marty Haynes. Commissioner Fred Skillern said he is studying weighing the issue. Others on the panel are Jim Fields, Chester Bankston and Tim Boyd.

Chairman Henry said he was advised there may be a legal issue about whether the sale of package iiquor and liquor by the drink was ever properly approved in Hamilton County. He said he understands it was not approved for the county as a whole.

He said, "They may require a referendum and may this whiskey issue moot." A referendum would be in 2014.

Chairman Henry said he believes Hamilton County voters should be allowed to speak on the issue.

He said he signed the letter because of the economic benefit to the county, including some jobs and an increase in tourism.

But he said, "If the liquor industry depended on me, this wouldn't be an issue. I don't have it in my house."

Joe Ledbetter and Tim Piersant of the Chattanooga Whiskey Company want to start producing whiskey here by investing $1 million in a building on the Southside. They said there would be at least 10 employees at first and up to 75 or more later.   

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