Sunday alcohol vote in 2008?
Decatur may wait even
if legislation passes
By Chris Paschenko
firstname.lastname@example.org · 340-2442
Decatur will likely hold a Sunday alcohol-sales referendum during 2008 city elections, even if the state Legislature gives the city and 13 others permission to have a vote at anytime.
A measure under consideration in the House of Representatives would give cities with populations between 12,000 and 99,000 the authority to host Sunday-sales referendums without requesting approval from the Legislature.
But City Council President Billy Jackson said timing the vote is crucial to its passage.
"I think it would be a great thing for us to control when we're able to have a referendum," Jackson said. "But the bottom line is we want to be able to do it with a reasonable chance of a good outcome of voters. Then we get a good flavor of what the people of Decatur want."
Decatur Mayor Don Kyle said higher voter turnout could help offset "no" votes from those who go to the polls strictly to vote against Sunday-sales measures.
Not having to fund a special election is another reason to schedule the referendum with the 2008 city election, Jackson said.
Councilman Ronny Russell said a special election could cost taxpayers $60,000 to $70,000.
"From discussions thus far, there has not been a feeling that the cost benefit would be on the positive side if a special election were held before the regular 2008 city elections," Russell said.
Councilman Gary Hammon said the council is looking at holding the Sunday-sales referendum along with the city elections for mayor and council in August 2008.
Jackson said it's important the city pass the measure because some restaurants refuse to come to Decatur otherwise.
"Some didn't want to come here before we had draft beer sales," Jackson said. "If we can open the door to a more complete array of restaurants, it just means more revenue going forth for the city."
In 2005, Decatur received legislative permission to hold a Sunday-sales vote, but the measure didn't specify a date.
The absence of a specific date meant Decatur could only hold a referendum on the second or fourth Tuesday of a month, which didn't coincide with the 2007 general election.
"We don't want to rush this," Jackson said. "It's too important for the city."
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