Riley vetoes alcohol bill

Published 8:51 pm Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Alabama Gov. Bob Riley vetoed the bill Tuesday that would have allowed residents in small towns in Chilton County and Alabama the right to hold a referendum authorizing the sale of alcohol.

In a three-sentence statement, Riley said the bill, as written and sponsored by State Rep. Jimmy Martin, D-Clanton, was unconstitutional.

“It doesn’t surprise me. He has a track record of vetoing any alcohol related bills,” Martin said Tuesday evening. “This bill is not unconstitutional until the courts rule it as unconstitutional.”

Riley’s reasoning apparently is tied to the fact that the bill handles two issues.

In addition to allowing towns with at least 1,000 residents in dry counties to hold an alcohol sales referendum, it would have also allowed restaurants in Shelby County that currently sell alcohol on Sunday to continue doing so.

“This bill, as currently drafted, is unconstitutional in that it attempts to treat two different and distinct issues in one bill. For that reason, I hereby veto House Bill No. 175. I encourage you to join me in this decision,” Riley wrote in his veto statement.

As for the bill’s future, Martin said he and the House leadership plan to override the governor’s veto.

“The bill is back in the House and we will take action on it either later this week or early next week,” Martin said. “I feel confident that we will get the votes, but I am going to have to work to get them.”

In order to override the governor’s veto, 53 House members and 17 senators must vote to do so.

“The only thing I tried to do was give the people of small towns the right to vote on the sale of alcoholic beverages in their communities. Other places, with 7,000 residents and above, already have that option,” Martin told the Shelby County Reporter Tuesday evening.

Martin tacked onto the referendum bill legislation that would have allowed Shelby County restaurants that currently hold a club license and sell alcohol on Sunday to continue to do so.

For years, restaurants in Shelby County that hold a club license in addition to a retail restaurant license have been able to sell alcoholic beverages on Sundays.

However, earlier this year, the Alabama Alcoholic Beverage Control Board changed its interpretation of Alabama law and notified all establishments with both licenses that they would no longer be granted the club license for Sunday sales as of Sept. 30, the date all such licenses expire.

The legislation vetoed Tuesday by Riley would have allowed those that currently sell alcohol on Sunday in Shelby County to continue to do so, but would not allow any other Sunday sales licenses to be granted.

The bill, complete with some amendments placed on the bill by State Sen. Hank Erwin and agreed to by Martin, would have allowed a referendum for alcohol sales if residents collected a petition with the number of signatures equal to at least 30 percent of the number that voted in the previous municipal election.

– Shelby County Reporter Jan Griffey contributed to this report.