The House Rules Committee took up two alcohol sales bills today and rendered a split decision.

The Committee on a voice vote defeated HB 1148 by Rep. Fran Cavenaugh (R-Walnut Ridge), which would allow cities to have local option elections on alcohol sales with petitions signed by 15 percent of the people who voted in the last mayoral election — either to go wet or dry. Currently, an entire county must vote wet on a petition of 38 percent of registered voters before localities can have local option elections on retail sales.

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Larry Page of the Arkansas Faith and Ethics Council, a long-time foe of alcohol sales, opposed the bill. Some people prefer to live in dry counties, he said. Robby Vogel of the Golden Eagle beer wholesaler opposed the amendment because he said the company deals with a similar law in Texas. The result is multiple local option elections that are “cumbersome” to deal with. Support came from cities and counties that would like to go wet, but face obstacles from the cost of mounting a countywide wet campaign. The Arkansas Municipal League spoke for the bill, saying it was about “local control.” If there’s a moral objection, the voters can vote no, a spokesman for the League said.

The Committee approved SB 76 to allow alcohol sales permit for an excursion train that offers dinner trips in the Ozarks.

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The Committee passed over SB 32 to make permanent a pandemic-rule that allows home delivery by retail liquor stores. There’s still work to be done on the bill,  Rep. Les Eaves (R-Searcy), the chair, said.