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    Tennessee C-Stores to ID Every Beer Customer

    New bill requires universal carding of beer sellers; opponents argue that new legislation has "lighter punishments."

    NASHVILLE, Tenn. --If Tennessee’s convenience stores have their way, anyone wanting a six-pack of beer in that state soon will have to prove they are old enough to buy it., reported the Associated Press.

    The bill passed the state Senate last week and was scheduled for a House vote Thursday. It requires beer sellers, except for restaurants, to check all IDs, according to the report.

    People buying wine or whiskey will not face the same requirement. Beer sales are traditionally regulated locally in Tennessee, while liquor sales are regulated by the state. Beer cannot be sold in the same stores that sell wine and liquor, according to the report.

    The bill also would create a voluntary training regimen for sellers and all their employees called the “responsible vendors program.”

    Under the program, participating businesses face a lower fine if found guilty of selling beer to a minor. The measure also says that beer permits for “responsible vendors” cannot be revoked on a first offense, AP reported.

    “Our biggest concern is a reduction in fines for those who opt into the program,” Laura Dial, executive director of Mothers Against Drunk Driving of Tennessee, which is neutral on the bill, told AP. “That just doesn't make any sense.”

    The bill would mandate carding for only a year beginning July 1, 2007, unless the Legislature votes to extend it. The “responsible vendor” portion does not face the same restriction.

    Several mayors of suburban municipalities in Shelby County, known for strictly enforcing beer laws, have lobbied against the bill because of the lighter punishments, according to the report.

    Mayor Terry Jones of Millington, a town of about 10,500 residents just north of Memphis, said in the report the legislation is an attempt to shield convenience stores from local laws.

    “All they're trying to do is take the ability to enforce the law away from us,” Jones told AP. “You get one chance here” if caught selling beer to minors.

    But Emily LeRoy, associate director of the Tennessee Oil Marketers Association, one of several industry groups pushing the bill, said in the report the lower fines are a fair deal for a business that puts the time and expense into the training.

    A business would still face losing its license if caught in two separate instances of selling beer to a minor. A business could also be kicked out of the program if it does not train all employees.

    Chris Freeman, a manager for Pilot convenience stores, told AP it was difficult at first to get customers used to being carded even if they were obviously older than 21.

    “Now they walk up and have their IDs ready,” he told AP. “It made it easier on the cashiers.”

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