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Judges Strike Down Liquor Law Ballot Initiative

06-May-2016

We have been following the attempts to modernize Oklahoma's liquor laws by allowing high-point beer and wine to be sold in grocery stores and convenience stores, rather than only in liquor stores as currently allowed by law. Recently, legislators passed Senate Joint Resolution 68, which will likely allow the proposal to be placed on the ballot for decision by Oklahoma voters in November.

However, SJR is not the only proposal to reform state liquor laws by allowing a vote of the people. Another ballot initiative, this one by the Retail Liquor Association of Oklahoma (RLAO), was recently presented to judges after the Oklahoma Grocers Association protested the initiative.
The Supreme Court of the State of Oklahoma this week considered Initiative Petition No. 409, State Question No. 785, to determine its legal sufficiency. Opponents of the ballot initiative "filed this protest alleging the petition unconstitutionally delegates legislative authority" and alleged that "the gist of the petition is insufficient and misleading."

Judges agreed, saying, "The petition makes significant changes to the liquor laws of this state; however, certain changes are recognizably absent from the gist." Notably, the gist of the petition says that grocery stores, warehouse clubs, and supercenters would be allowed to purchase Retail Package Store licenses or Retail Grocery Wine Store licenses in order to sell wine or cold high-point beer in their stores. However, the gist does not point out that the proposal would not allow those stores within 2,500 feet of a retail liquor store to obtain such a license, thus precluding a number of stores from obtaining the license.

 

The judges ruled, "The gist fails to alert potential signatories of the changes being made to the law and does not provide a potential signatory with sufficient information to make an informed decision about the true nature of the proposed constitutional amendment." Because of the legal insufficiency, the Oklahoma Supreme Court has stricken the initiative from the ballot.

This does not mean that Oklahoma voters will not have the opportunity to vote on a proposal to allow the sale of wine and beer in locations outside of liquor stores; to allow the sale of refrigerated high-point beer; and to allow liquor stores to sell peripheral items such as cocktail mixers, corkscrews, and bottle openers. SJR 68, which is approved by both the House and the Senate, should still make the ballot, and it appears to have more allowances than those which were limited by the RLAO in an effort to preserve the interests of local liquor stores should grocery stores and other retailers be allowed to offer regular beer and wine in competition with liquor stores.
 

 

 



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