BY STATE REPRESENTATIVE NATE BELL –
I want to begin this week’s column by thanking the local news outlets that continue to share my updates from the House with their audiences despite political pressure. I believe that it is my responsibility to keep my constituents informed about the issues and activities of your state legislature. I make a diligent effort to avoid any form of electioneering or other campaign activity when fulfilling my official responsibilities.
This week’s column is the last of my series of columns on the ballot questions that will be on your ballot this year.
Issue 4 is a citizen-led initiative which will appear on the General Election ballot.
The amendment is titled “The Arkansas Alcoholic Beverage Amendment” and, if passed, it would amend the Arkansas Constitution by declaring the manufacture, sale, distribution, and transportation of intoxicating liquors to be lawful within the entire geographic area of each and every county of the State.
The amendment allows for the General Assembly to regulate sales, but neither the legislature nor local governments can prohibit sales if the amendment is passed.
Existing laws enacted by the legislature regulating sales in areas already wet are not affected by the proposed amendment. For example, there is a law stating there can only be one liquor store for every 5,000 residents in a county. There is another that states liquor stores cannot be located within 1000 feet of a school or a church. Those regulations and others, unless changed by the legislature or courts, would still be in effect regardless of the outcome on Issue 4.
The sale of alcohol has been a highly debated issue since the days when Arkansas was still a territory. After prohibition ended, the sale of alcohol was permitted in all counties. A 1935 state law mandated that in order to hold an election on the matter, a petition had to be signed by at least 35% of a county’s electorate. In 1942, voters adopted Initiated Act 1 which lowered the threshold to 15%. That threshold was changed several times over the years by the legislature and now stands at 38% of registered voters in a county.
Currently, 37 of Arkansas’ 75 counties are dry. All 3 counties in HD20 are dry. A few of the wet counties have individual cities and townships within their boundaries that have voted to remain dry. Issue 4 would not permit any municipality or county to prohibit the sale of alcohol regardless of the local choice.
I encourage you to research the issue for yourself and make an informed decision when you vote. You can see non-biased in depth explanations of all of the ballot questions at: http://www.uaex.edu/business-communities/voter-education/state-ballot-issues.aspx
The last day to register to vote for the November election is October 6th. If you are unsure of your registration status you can verify it at www.voterview.org.