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Alcohol sales bill passes state senate

The legislation allowing small towns in dry counties to host referendums on alcohol sales was approved by the Alabama Senate Wednesday. But, the ultimate decision on whether the bill becomes law may rest with Gov. Bob Riley.

With a 17-9 vote the Senate approved House Bill 175 sponsored by State Rep. Jimmy Martin, but it included some changes.

The approved legislation requires towns have a least a population of 1,000 people and that at least 30 percent of the number of voters participating in the most recent municipal election sign a petition.

State Sen. Hank Erwin, who voted against the measure, said the amendments he added, “strengthen the bill.”

“I believe these amendments make a stronger bill, a bill that requires strong public support for a referendum,” Erwin said after the measure passed.

Although he did not vote for the measure, he did work with Martin in getting the amendments added.

“I did agree with the amendments that were added and believe it is a better bill,” Martin said. “We have a few more steps and then wait to see if the governor will sign the bill.”

The next steps mentioned by Martin includes the bill going into “conference” which is required when a version of the bill is passed by one chamber and then changed by the other. The conference allows for the differences to be worked out.

“It will go very quickly through conference. I will concur the changes as the original sponsor and then I would think the other house members would concur as well,” Martin said.

As for the governor’s signature, Martin said he was not sure if the governor would veto the measure or not.

“If he vetoes the bill then we will have to override his veto,” Martin said.

The governor’s press secretary Todd Stacy said he was not in a position to “speculate” as to what the governor would, or would not do.

“The governor looks over each piece of legislation before deciding on whether he will sign it or not,” Stacy said. “I don’t want to speculate.”

The original version of the bill set the population limit at 500 people, which would have allowed Maplesville, Thorsby and Jemison to hold referendums to sell alcohol. With the new 1,000 limit, Maplesville and towns its size, will not be allowed to hold a referendum.