Alcohol sales amendment qualifies for the ballot | Arkansas Blog

Friday, August 29, 2014

Alcohol sales amendment qualifies for the ballot

Posted By on Fri, Aug 29, 2014 at 3:50 PM

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The secretary of state's office has announced that the proposed amendment to allow retail alcohol sales in all 75 Arkansas counties has sufficient petitions of registered voters to qualify for the ballot.

I've also asked Elizabeth Robben Murray, the Friday Firm lawyer representing alcohol industry opponents of the measure (chiefly retailers in wet counties that don't want to see competition in currently dry neighobring counties) if she'll sue to challenge the certification. She's already objected that signatures were turned in after the constitutional deadline of July 4 (the deadline was extended to July 7, the first business day after the July 4 holiday when offices were closed). And she's raised a number of questions about the validity of signatures.

Let Arkansas Decide needed 78,133 signatures to get an amendment on the ballot. It fell about 17,000 short at the first deadline, but qualified for 30 more days of canvassing and submitted 42,000 more. In the end, the secretary of state said the proposal had at least 87,102 verified signatures, with others still being verified. But that was a sufficient margin to notify county election commission that it should be on the Nov. 4 ballot.

As of Aug. 15, Let Arkansas Decide had raised $110,000 for the drive and spent more than $220,000. Contributions have come from retailers who could sell beer and small batch wines anywhere in Arkansas if the law passes — Brookshire's ($50,000) and $10,000 each from Mapco, Casey's, E-Z Mart and Kum and Go convenience store operators. National Ballot Access, the company that hires canvassers, previously had loaned $20,000 to front expenses. No loan is indicated on the most recent Ethics Commission filing and it's unclear how expenses have been paid — or merely incurred — that exceed contributions to date. The Conway County beverage dealers association has also raised more than $200,000 so far for the fight against alcohol sales. Their opposition helped defeat a petition drive to make Faulkner County wet, but a state vote could override that. 

No announcement so far relative to the initiated act to raise the minimum wage from $6.25 to $8.50 by 2017. Those signatures are being reviewed as well. That process is still continuing, the secretary of state's office said.

FYI: How the committee describes the alcohol proposal:

Let Arkansas Decide! is a committee which exists in support of the Arkansas Alcoholic Beverage Amendment. We are here to support the AABA because it will provide jobs, increase safety, reduce costs, create competition, and provide a greater tax structure to every county within the state of Arkansas.

The AABA is a proposed amendment to the Arkansas Constitution to provide that, effective July 1, 2015, the manufacture, sale, distribution and transportation of intoxicating liquors is lawful within the ENTIRE geographic area of each and every county of Arkansas.

This won't change existing laws on times of operation or alter limits on retail liquor stores based on population in a county. The normal permitting process will be required for alcohol sellers.

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