Oklahoma: Liquor law proposal struck down by Supreme Court
Source: News Channel 4
by Lorne Fultonberg
May 3, 2016
A ballot initiative to give voters the choice to change liquor laws has been ruled unconstitutional by the Oklahoma Supreme Court.
Eight of nine justices came together to strike down the petition organized by the Retail Liquor Association of Oklahoma, saying “certain changes [to the liquor laws] are recognizably absent from the gist” of the ballot language.
Some justices argued the language in the ballot initiative “deceives potential signatories and potential voters.”
“We were hoping to get alcohol reform on the ballot, as we envisioned it to be good for Oklahoma and Oklahoma businesses,” said Bryan Kerr of the RLA. “We’re also very disappointed for the consumer, because we really felt like we had a good plan that could help the consumer unlike the plans being put forth out here at the capitol.”
If approved, the ballot initiative would have allowed grocery stores to stock cold, high-point beer.
Certain stores could also have received permits to sell wine.
Stores would also have been allowed to sell on holidays and offer corkscrews, mixers and other supermarket items.
But, now, members of the Retail Liquor Association aren’t sure exactly how they’ll proceed.
They could try to re-draft the language of the ballot initiative, but Kerr said that can be a long, painstaking process – tough to accomplish as deadlines loom.
Kerr and the RLA will continue to oppose Sen. Clark Jolley’s legislation to modernize liquor laws, though they share many of the same provisions.
A key difference in Senate Joint Resolution 68 though is the tenet that allows “convenience stores, drug stores, warehouse clubs and supercenters” to sell as well.
Supporters said it gives consumers greater freedom in where to take their dollars, arguing SJR 68 will grow local businesses and the economy as well as adding inconvenience.
But, opponents argue it will do just the opposite.
“[It will] end up closing down a lot of local businesses,” Kerr said. “We think it will also raise prices for the consumer on almost all alcohol – beer, wine and spirits, and we feel like it will also restrict the consumer’s choice.”
Kerr is worried the thousands of potentially-newly-eligible convenience stores will get an unfair advantage, because they won’t be bound by laws that keep liquor stores away from schools and churches and require the people behind the counter be of a certain age.