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Emails reveal anger with Rep. Hill's wine in grocery stores vote

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JONESBOROUGH, TN (WJHL) -

Voters in Northeast Tennessee are not happy with Representative Matthew Hill's decision to vote against legislation that would have allowed them to decide if wine should be sold in grocery stores.

That is according to emails News Channel 11 obtained through an open records request.

The request yielded 61 pages worth of emails written to and from Hill about the vote.

In those emails, 41 people told him they disagreed with his vote, 6 people told him they agreed with his vote, and three people expressed no opinion.

Back in March, the House Local Government Committee voted 8-7 against legislation that would have allowed for a referendum on wine in grocery stores.

Rep Hill, a Republican representing the 7th House District, is the chairman of that committee and he voted "no."

Within the emails written to Hill after his vote, were the following questions:

"Are you on the take?"

"Who bought you off?"

"I guess the liquor lobby has gotten to you."

These are all statements made by people who emailed Hill after his controversial vote.

They are allegations that Hill told News Channel 11's Melissa Hipolit are not true.

"I have taken absolutely zero money from the liquor lobby, I have taken zero money from liquor PACs," said Hill.

A check of Hill's campaign finance report filings from 2012 revealed no contributions made by the liquor lobby or a liquor PAC, but Hill is up for re-election next year, so Melissa asked him the following question.

"Can you promise us here now that you will not take anything from the liquor lobby or liquor PACs for your next election?"

In response, Hill said, "Yes, absolutely."

In addition to money concerns, the authors of the emails to Hill were particularly upset that Hill did not support letting them make the decision through a vote, not politicians.

One person wrote: "You obviously do not believe that citizens have good enough sense to vote as they see fit for something."

To that, Hill said he does trust his constituents, but he could not allow them to vote on a bill that had not been properly discussed and debated.

"We were getting ready to fundamentally change alcohol law in the state of Tennessee for the first time in 70 years with not one question, with not one debate, with not one comment or one amendment," said Hill.

Hill said a motion by another legislator to cut off debate and move to a vote prevented the discussion of important amendments to address restrictive liquor store laws in the state.

"It was going to force small businesses to be shut down because they were given no consideration because of the way our system is set up in the state of Tennessee when it comes to liquor stores," said Hill.

Still, several of the email authors said Hill lost their vote because he did not do what they asked him to do.

"Once again, I get the frustration, I understand that, but I wanta make sure we do our best to get it right," said Hill.

And, to that point, Hill said he is actively working to get the legislature prepared to consider the bill again next session.

Hill said he is not willing to say how he will vote on the legislation next year until there is discussion and debate on it.


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