JPs approve alcohol opposition

White County leaders say amendment takes away local control


White County leaders approved a resolution Tuesday which opposes the Arkansas Alcoholic Beverage Amendment on Nov. 4 general election ballot.

The amendment, if approved by state voters, will allow all counties in the state to distribute and sell alcohol. The resolution approved by quorum court members, reads, “the proposed amendment to the Arkansas Constitution is repugnant to Amendment 55 of the Arkansas Constitution and the principles that local communities should have the liberty to decide local affairs, not    persons residing in other communities or regions of the state.”

The resolution also says the amendment would create constitutional challenges “to existing common sense laws and ordinances protecting minors — such as prohibitions of the sale, manufacture or distribution of alcohol at or adjacent to schools, churches, nursing homes, hospitals or certain public places.”

Justice of the Peace Mike Cleveland, R-Searcy, sponsored the amendment to let county residents make county decisions.
“I hope it sends a clear message to citizens that the county opposes anything that takes the local control away,” White County Judge Michael Lincoln said. “It’s not about alcohol or morality issues or even tax revenues, it’s all about local versus state control. If we start this approach of the state deciding county issues, what other local control is next?”

Lincoln, however, said this resolution won’t hinder the distribution or sale of alcohol if the amendment passes Nov. 4. Lincoln and Cleveland said this resolution merely shows the county leaders opposition to the amendment.

“The resolution will be null and void if the amendment passes by the state voters,” Lincoln said. “This resolution has no legal binding. Some people may ask why even have this resolution, but many of us feel it’s an erosion of local government and local control.
“If the amendment passes, it’s not going to prevent an entity from challenging the constitutionality of the amendment. I don’t know if White County will get involved in a challenge, but other counties are opposed as well.”

On Thursday, the Marion County Quorum Court became the first county to pass a resolution opposing the Arkansas Alcoholic Beverage Amendment. Marion County Judge Terry Ott said the County Judges Association of Arkansas opposes federal and state amendments that take away the rights of local communities.

The Arkansas Supreme Court also will hear oral arguments Oct. 9 for the lawsuit filed by a group opposed to the proposed constitutional amendment. Citizens for Local Rights asked the court to remove the proposal from the November ballot, arguing the state used the wrong deadline to accept petitions for the measure.

The group is also arguing that the ballot title is insufficient. Currently, 37 of Arkansas’ 75 counties are dry, meaning the sale of alcoholic beverages is prohibited, except under certain laws, such as those allowing for private clubs.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014 9:30 pm. Information for this article was contributed by the Associated Press.

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