The Thirsty Beagle: Liquor store association sues to block November vote

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Liquor store association sues to block November vote

In a move that should surprise absolutely nobody, the Retail Liquor Association of Oklahoma on Wednesday filed a lawsuit in Oklahoma County District Court asking a judge to stop the November vote on State Question 792.

The state question -- you may remember it as Senate Joint Resolution 68 -- would bring sweeping changes to Oklahoma's constitution as it pertains to our alcohol rules.

You can read a story on the lawsuit from The Oklahoman right here.

The RLAO suing to block the vote has been a distinct possibility for some time. I blogged in March that the group may consider legal action.

When the state Supreme Court rejected an initiative petition filed by the group Oklahomans for Consumer Freedom -- a petition that essentially mirrored SJR 68 -- you had to figure that would embolden RLAO to take action on SQ 792.

The Oklahomans for Consumer Freedom petition was filed as a back-up measure in case SJR 68 didn't make it out of the Legislature and onto the ballot. Why the court struck it down is unclear.

The court has not published an opinion or explanation, and Oklahomans for Consumer Freedom, now known as Yes on 792, told me recently they didn't anticipate the court would reveal its thinking.

The fact that the petition was struck down, and the fact that it so closely mirrored what is now SQ 792, should be troubling for anyone who had hoped to vote on that measure in November.

Will the district court see SQ 792 the same way the Supreme Court viewed the OCF petition? That is the question of the day.

So where do we go from here? Really, we could have any combination of things happen.

If the court throws out SQ 792, we may still end up with the RLAO's petition, SQ 791. However it's not clear enough signatures will be collected to get that measure on the ballot. (And then whether you like the language of that petition is an entirely different question.)

We could have no alcohol questions on the ballot -- thank goodness Senate Bill 424 was passed to help the state's craft brewers, at least.

That would leave Senate Bill 383 -- the measure that handles all the statutory changes needed to accompany SQ 792 -- dangling in the wind. Would the legislature try again next year with a new version of SJR 68? After all, SB 383 is not due to go into effect until the fall of 2018.

There's also the chance we could end up with both alcohol state questions on the ballot. I did some research on that eventuality, and found out that if there are two competing state questions, the one that garners the better percentage of support would be the one that goes into effect.

Wouldn't that be interesting.

However it shakes out, it will need to shake out fast. The deadline to print the November election ballots is coming up next month.

After it appeared we had at least some clarity on the issue, what will be on the ballot is now a total mystery.

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