Alcohol Expansion Doesn’t Have to be Forever

Following local-option elections last month that saw two of three ballot initiatives to expand alcohol sales in the affected communities, Don Cole, executive director for the Kentucky Ethics League prepared these guidelines to help citizens continue to be a positive influence on the issue in those communities where expansion was approved:

With the abundance of activity in alcohol option elections across the state, I thought it might be timely and helpful to share some thoughts on what to do after alcohol has been voted into an area.

Preface: The affirmative vote to allow alcohol sales, does not end the battle or settle all alcohol issues. There are various issues that may arise about the sales after the election. For instance, after the approving vote, decisions on what is or is not permitted can be made by the City Council or County magistrates. These ruling authorities can decide that more revenue is needed for the city or county. To provide that revenue, they may choose to begin alcohol sales on Sundays. They need only to adopt an ordinance to allow Sunday sales. All establishments with approved alcohol licenses may begin sales immediately.

The same would be true of allowing alcohol at an outdoor festival. The City Council and county magistrates can decide this without a vote by the people. Of course, alcohol sales can take place only in a territory that has first voted by option election to allow it.

So, here are a few suggestions for you to follow in working against the issue.

1. Keep a record of the number of DUIs and assaults resulting from alcohol in your city or county. Keep track of the number of wrecks, injuries, hospitalizations, court costs and proceedings involving alcohol. Court records on DUIs and assaults involving alcohol, etc. are usually published in local newspapers. If not, you can get the information from the county court clerk or city clerk.

2. Stay in touch with the mayor, county judge executive, city council members and county magistrates. Remind these people that they are to serve all the people as effectively as possible.

3. Stay in touch with your representative and senator in the Kentucky General Assembly. They need to hear from you about your concerns. Keep up with their voting records in the legislature. In every session of the Kentucky legislature, there are many alcohol laws proposed that will expand the sale of alcohol. We will do our best to keep you informed when a harmful or a helpful alcohol related law is being proposed. Contacting your legislators on proposed alcohol legislation is vital. Let them know you support legislation to control alcohol and that you oppose legislation to expand alcohol sales in the state. Do not threaten them with your vote, but give a gentle reminder that there will be another election for their offices,.

4. Stay in touch with your representative and senator on the federal level. Keep up with their voting records.

5. Keep the action committee in place. All churches should be urged to have someone serve on the committee. Get as many pastors involved as possible. The idea I am expressing is eternal vigilance. The key is to be proactive, rather than wait and see what happens.

6. Urge pastors to speak on the issue as it relates to their community. You probably will not notice much difference at first, but issues will begin to arise. You may see an increase in your auto insurance as wrecks caused by alcohol will occur. Let it be known when a collision involves alcohol. If there are lifetime injuries as a result of alcohol, let that be known also. Call attention to incidents of under-age drinking. You should not mention the names of persons involved, but remind the people to observe and consider what alcohol is doing to their community.

7. According to Kentucky alcohol control laws, a community which has voted to allow alcohol sales in restaurants by the drink, by either the 50 seat or 100 seat law, will have to wait three years to vote on that particular issue again to try and overturn it.

8. If those favoring alcohol wish to do so, they could call for a county-wide vote before the period of three years has passed. An option election on county-wide sales can be held because it would be a different issue according to alcohol control laws. The process would be the same. A petition would be circulated to obtain signatures in favor of calling for the election and submission of the petition to the county clerk for verification and to set the date for the vote, if everything is in order. A community that I am familiar with voted on county-wide alcohol sales. That issue was defeated by the dry forces. The wet forces then came back with a petition for an election to allow by the drink sales in restaurants. Since this is a different issue than county-wide sales, no three-year waiting period was necessary. The vote to allow restaurant sales passed. This is a good example of why you need to be constantly watching and listening to what is happening in your cities and counties in relation to alcohol sales.

9. If you have questions, or need to speak with us about any of these points, please call our office (502-635-0002) or my cell phone (270-619-0265).

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