Alcohol sales in serious trouble

Published 10:15 am Thursday, May 7, 2009

The Alabama Senate Wednesday afternoon failed to override Gov. Bob Riley’s veto of a bill that would have allowed towns of at least 1,000 people in dry counties to authorize alcohol sales.

The vote was 13-15 against the vote. Eighteen votes were needed for the override. However, the Senate later Wednesday evening voted 17-9 to hold the matter over, allowing for another override vote in the coming days.

Earlier in the day, State Rep. Jimmy Martin (D-Clanton), the original sponsor of the bill, had said he was hoping the senate would vote to override the governor.

“We’re still working and believe we are one short,” Martin said before the vote was held, noting that the governor was also working on building support in holding the veto. “We are still working but are now having to work against the governor. He is working extremely hard to convince senators the need to keep this bill from passing.”

The Clanton Advertiser contacted State Sen. Hank Erwin (R-Montevallo) prior to the vote, asking if he would support the bill–a bill the other legislators from the affected counties strongly supported.

“I am going to support my governor and my party,” Erwin said. “The governor is very aware of what is going on in Chilton County and very aware of what is going on in Shelby County. I am going to support his veto.”

The bill, which Riley called unconstitutional in his veto of the bill two weeks ago, would have also allowed Shelby County restaurants to continue selling alcohol on Sunday.

In his comments against overriding the veto, Erwin, who voted against the original passage of the bill earlier in the legislative session, said the bill did not just impact Chilton County and Shelby County.

“This bill affected a lot more people than just Chilton County and Shelby County,” Erwin said. “It impacts every dry county in the state, and I had to take that into consideration.”

Riley’s unconstitutional comments came from the fact the bill handled two separate issues; Chilton County’s small town referendums and Shelby County’s continued Sunday alcohol sales at restaurants.

“I still do not understand why the governor believes this bill to be unconstitutional,” Martin said. “Even before the bill came up for review in committee, it received a judicial review. Plus, no one can call anything unconstitutional other than the courts.”

The bill would have allowed towns and cities with populations of at least 1,000 people in dry counties to organize a referendum allowing for alcohol sales in their town or city.

“There are laws on the books that will allow the county to go wet any time it wants to,” Erwin said. “The people will just need to get the petition and hold a referendum.”

Current law would allow for a county to decide with a countywide vote. In Chilton County, Clanton is the only area where alcohol can be sold. Current legislation allows for towns of at least 7,000 residents to hold a referendum, which Clanton did years ago.