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Legislation allows Jemison, Thorsby to avoid interruption of alcohol sales

Legislation that would allow Jemison and Thorsby to continue alcohol sales has been passed by the Alabama Legislature and signed into law by Gov. Robert Bentley on Thursday.

Rep. Jimmy Martin of Clanton sponsored the bills, which were deemed necessary after a recent Alabama Supreme Court ruling struck down a state law from 2009 that allowed municipalities of a certain size to hold referendums on the sale of alcoholic beverages even if they were located inside a county that did not allow such sales.

Jemison and Thorsby voters approved alcohol sales in separate elections in 2010, based on the 2009 law, and businesses in those municipalities have been selling alcoholic beverages, with the local governments seeing increases in revenue because of associated taxes.

The 2009 law excluded cities in Blount, Clay and Randolph counties, giving rise to a lawsuit that led to the Supreme Court’s decision to strike down the law.

More than 30 cities and towns and Alabama could have been affected by the recent Supreme Court ruling.

Though the court gave time for new legislation to be passed, government officials in Jemison and Thorsby worried about a decrease in revenue if alcohol sales were banned.

Martin said he talked with Jemison Mayor Eddie Reed about the issue.

“He was very concerned about it because it involved his town,” Martin said. “He was one of the ones pushing for it so they wouldn’t have to go through another referendum.”

One of the bills passed addresses municipalities, such as Jemison and Thorsby, that held referendums after passage of the 2009 law.

The other bill allows any municipality with a population of at least 1,000 residents to hold a referendum on alcohol sales (those with populations of 7,000 or more have been covered since the passage of a 1984 law).

In January 2010, Jemison residents voted in favor of the legal sale and distribution of alcoholic beverages by a margin of more than 250 votes.

There were 466 residents who voted “yes” and 213 residents voting “no.”

In June of 2010, Thorsby residents also voted in favor of the legal sale and distribution of alcohol beverages with 310 residents voting in favor and 208 residents voting to keep the town dry.

About 12 businesses combined in Jemison and Thorsby sell alcoholic beverages, producing more than $100,000 in tax revenue annually for the municipalities.