Oklahoma: Liquor store owners, distributors fight proposed Oklahoma ballot question
Source: News OK
February 22, 2016
Oklahoma liquor store owners and a group representing two of the state’s largest liquor distributors have filed legal challenges to a proposed state question on wine and full-strength beer in grocery and convenience stores.
The Oklahoma Retail Liquor Association, which represents package store owners in the state, on Friday filed a challenge to Oklahomans for Modern Laws’ proposed state question at the Oklahoma Supreme Court.
The package-store owner group argues in its challenge that the proposed state question violates a constitutional ban against including more than one subject in a single ballot measure, also known as the single-subject rule.
Oklahomans for Modern Laws’ proposed State Question 783 would ask voters to allow regular-strength beer capped at 8.99 percent alcohol by volume in grocery and convenience stores.
Bryan Kerr, president of the Oklahoma Retail Liquor Association, said the proposal would force many package stores in the state to close because they would not be able to compete with grocery stores and convenience stores. The proposal gives few concessions to retail package stores, other than the ability to be open on Memorial Day, Labor Day, and the Fourth of July.
“We think that particular petition is bad for Oklahoma, and it doesn’t meet the requirements to be a state question,” Kerr said.
The Institute for Responsible Alcohol Policy, which represents two of the state’s largest liquor distributors, also filed a challenge Monday to the measure.
In a statement, John Maisch, president of the Institute for Responsible Alcohol Policy, said it filed the challenge “because it not only allows brewers to circumvent important safeguards requiring beer to be distributed by independent, Oklahoma wholesalers, but it also prohibits our elected leaders from passing future legislation to curtail this potentially harmful practice.”
“The public is best served when state legislators enact laws that ensure a strong, vibrant three-tier system intended to prevent large suppliers from exerting unhealthy influence over the distribution and retail tiers,” Maisch said. “When those tiers are allowed to collapse, it can threaten the independence of one or both tiers.”
Brian Howe, director of Oklahomans for Modern Laws, said he believes that the Institute for Responsible Alcohol Policy’s challenge was filed after the deadline to do so. Oklahomans for Modern Laws will fight any legal challenge, Howe said. The group is funded by oil and gas investor Sean Campbell, Oklahoma Ethics Commission filings show.
“We are definitely going to fight the protest,” Howe said.
If proposed State Question 783 passes a legal challenge at the Oklahoma Supreme Court, Oklahomans for Modern Laws would have 90 days to gather about 123,000 signatures to get the proposal on the November statewide ballot.
Efforts to get another state question on wine in grocery stores on the ballot in 2012 survived a state Supreme Court challenge on similar constitutional grounds with a vote of 5-to-4. However, the group was unable to gather the required signatures to get it on the ballot.