Amendment Makes Liquor Issue City-Only

March 18, 2003
Posted at: 11:25 a.m. CST

JONESBORO, Ark. -- The ongoing local controversy over a liquor by the drink proposal before the Arkansas General Assembly took another turn Tuesday as the bill was amended to remove county consideration from the matter.

The amendment, offered by sponsor Rep. Betty Pickett, D-Conway, changes the bill to allow a liquor-by-the-drink vote to be placed on the local ballots of the cities of Jonesboro or Conway by either petition or a city council vote.

The amendment is supported by Citizens for a Progressive Arkansas, a group that initially drafted the legislation that Pickett introduced. They were initially attempting to bring liquor by the drink sales to Craighead and Faulkner counties. Carrol Caldwell, the Jonesboro spokesman for the CPA, says that the new language makes the bill better and focusses it on where he thinks the greatest support can be found.

"We decided that most of the people who are for this bill live in the city limits anyway," Caldwell said. "So we just took it out, just took the county completely out.

"We're just trying to make this bill as much of a first class bill as we can, and I think that most of the people who are for this are from the city," Caldwell added.

In its original form, HB 1728 would have allowed the counties of Craighead and Faulkner, or the cities of Jonesboro and Conway, the possibility of a vote on allowing restaurants, hotels, or convention centers to sell liquor by the drink. It allowed the vote to come by the current manner: a petition signed by 38% of registered voters residing in a county. In addition, it would have allowed the county quorum court or local city council to put a measure on the ballot by a simple majority vote.

"We've put a lot of time into prayer," Tommy Stacy of North Main Baptist Church said. "We're just praying that this bill will be defeated.

"Most of the people I've talked to say it's denying them the right to vote," Stacy added.

Currently both Craighead and Faulkner counties are dry, with the last votes on liquor-related issues coming in 1978 and 1976, respectively.