, Port Arthur, Texas

Local News

April 23, 2009

Wine bill slips onto Senate agenda with help

AUSTIN — Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, a known wine connoisseur, isn't always able to drink his favorite vintage when he goes out for dinner. But that could change soon under legislation he is said to be actively pushing.

A bill on its way to the state Senate would let Texans carry their own bottles of wine into liquor-carrying restaurants and then leave with whatever they don't drink. Industry representatives have taken to calling the legislation the "Dewhurst bill."

Glen Garey, a top official at the Texas Restaurant Association, said Dewhurst was frustrated because he couldn't order his preferred bottle when dining out in Austin. The lieutenant governor presides over the state Senate and was instrumental in getting the legislation moving, said Garey, the association's general counsel.

"He is the one who refers bills, and he also has a nice wine collection, so he would, I guess, enjoy it if we could in fact allow the practice," Garey said. "There is actually a particular brand of wine he likes ... but we don't carry it at his favorite restaurant, and he had expressed that interest before."

Dewhurst spokesman Rich Parsons said Dewhurst spoke with the Texas Restaurant Association about the bill earlier this year, but he denied that the powerful lieutenant governor wanted it passed so that he could carry his own wine into restaurants.

Parsons said the industry association had "dropped the ball" by not finding a sponsor to file the legislation before last week. Garey agreed the industry had goofed by not finding a sponsor earlier, but said that Dewhurst's intervention this late in the session was crucial.

Neither Garey nor Parsons could name Dewhurst's favorite wine.

As Republican leader of the state Senate, Dewhurst is one of the most powerful leaders in Texas government. He sets the agenda in the chamber, controls the assignments senators get and generally decides where bills get sent. In this case, the wine bill — authored by Sen. Tommy Williams, R-The Woodlands — was not sent through the typical process.

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