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Alcohol sales bill passes

The Alabama Senate needed 18 votes to override Gov. Bob Riley’s veto of an alcohol sales bill. On Thursday, they got exactly 18 votes.

With the override, the bill, which allows residents in towns of at least 1,000 people in a dry county to hold a referendum to sell alcohol, is now law.

“I am pleased that the Senate was able to override the governor’s veto,” said State Rep. Jimmy Martin (D-Clanton), who sponsored the bill. “There has been a lot of work put behind getting this bill passed.”

Earlier in the legislation, this bill, which also allows restaurants in Shelby County to continue selling alcohol on Sunday, had passed with strong support in both the Alabama House and Senate. But Riley vetoed the bill, calling it unconstitutional since it dealt with two separate issues.

The House, on April 13, was able to quickly override the veto, but the same effort in the Senate fell short. Proponents of the bill were able to get the override vote scheduled again Thursday, just one day before this year’s legislative session was set to end.

The alcohol sales portion of the bill now gives towns in most of the state’s dry counties the chance to hold a referendum in their own municipality without holding countywide votes. The previous legislation had required a city to have at least 7,000 residents before holding a referendum. The city of Clanton was able to use that law to approve alcohol sales years ago.

There are 26 counties in Alabama who are still dry, but this bill excludes Clay, Randolph and Blount counties.

And, this may have been the last chance for such an opportunity for towns like Jemison and Thorsby.

Martin said Thursday if this measure had not passed, he wasn’t going to try again.

“We’ve worked on this for years,” Martin said. “If it didn’t pass this year, I wasn’t bringing it back. There’s a lot of pressure on bills like these.”

Chilton County has two municipalities that could hold a referendum now: Jemison and Thorsby. An earlier version of the bill required a town have at least 500 residents but was amended to increase the number to 1,000.

If the bill had remained at 500, Maplesville could have held a referendum.

The bill also requires supporters of a referendum to produce a petition with 30 percent of the number of voters who voted in the last municipal election.