By Bobby Harrison/NEMS Daily Journal
JACKSON – Legislation was sent to the governor Tuesday that would allow municipalities in dry counties to vote on allowing the sale of liquor.
The bill would allow any municipality with a population of more than 5,000 or any municipality that is a county seat to vote to allow liquor to be sold. Twelve members of the 52-member Mississippi Senate voted against the proposal, which earlier passed the House.
Under current state law, when votes are held to legalize liquor, it must be a countywide referendum. Liquor, though, can only be sold within municipal boundaries.
There have been instances where a majority of city dwellers have favored the legalization of alcohol, but it has been blocked by the vote of county resdients.
The legislation would allow a vote solely within municipal boundaries of cities of 5,000 or more or of a county seat on the issue of selling liquor if 20 percent of the registered voters present a petition to the board of aldermen in support of the referendum.
Rep. Lester “Bubba” Carpenter, R-Burnsville, said he supported the proposal because it is time to get the Legislature out of the business of voting on the issue for individual towns.
In recent years, legislation has been passed to allow certain cities in dry counties to sell liquor by granting them resort status.
“The local people know better than we do,” Carpenter said.
Earlier this session the Corinth Board of Aldermen asked the Legislature to allow a Corinth-only vote on the sale of liquor. Lgislators from the Corinth area refused to file a bill to allow the vote, but the bill sent to the governor Tuesday would allow that vote.
Sen. Rita Potts Parks, R-Corinth, said she voted against the proposal because she believes all liquor votes should be countywide. She said that was the overwhelming sentiment of her constituents who contacted her about the issue.
Sen. Lydia Chasaniol, R-Winona, chair of the Tourism Committee, said the bill promotes tourism and economic development.
“We are hoping to attract tourism,” she said. To do that, Mississippi’s liquor laws need to be compatible with those in surrounding states. “Tourists often want a nice wine with their dinner,” she said.
If voters in a municipality approved the sale of liquor, it would be up to the town’s governing board to set up guidelines. The board could restrict the sale of liquor to restaurants or could allow it to be sold in package stores.
How They Voted
VOTE OF Northeast Mississippi senators on bill to allow municipalities to vote on the sale of liquor:
FOR – Hob Bryan, D-Amory; Nancy Collins, R-Tupelo; Gray Tollison, ROxford; Bennie Turner, D-West Point.
AGAINST – Nickey Browning, DPontotoc; Gary Jackson, R-French Camp; Russell Jolly, D-Houston; Rita Potts Parks, R-Corinth; Bill Stone, D-Ashland; and J.P. Wilemon, D-Belmont.