Mentone requests help from legislators for wet/dry vote
January 15, 2016 Share

Mentone requests help from legislators for wet/dry vote

By Joseph M. Morgan

joseph@southerntorch.com

MENTONE, Ala.— The Mentone Town Council is calling on local legislators to help in their efforts to make the sale of alcohol in Mentone legal. The council recently passed a resolution formally requesting assistance from Alabama Sen. Steve Livingston (R-Scottsboro) and Rep. Nathaniel Ledbetter (R-Rainsville) to introduce legislation in Montgomery that would allow the town to call for a wet/dry referendum and hold a local election to decide whether or not to allow the sale of alcoholic beverages.

“Mentone is a tourist destination and currently people can drive five miles from here and buy alcohol in Georgia, but they can’t buy it here,” Mentone Mayor Rob Hammond said. “We’re not only sending money out of town, we’re sending it out of state. Tax revenues from alcohol sales would be a significant help to our town.”

Hammond said Sen. Livingston and Rep. Ledbetter happened to be present at a town meeting a few weeks ago when the issue came up and expressed their willingness to help if they could. Hammond said the resolution was a symbolic gesture to recognize and officially request the help of Ledbetter and Livingston and generate awareness for the issue.

Mentone and the DeKalb legislators could be facing an uphill battle, however. Current state law requires a minimum population of 1,000 residents for a municipality in a dry county to become eligible for a wet/dry vote. The most recent data from the U.S. Census Bureau (USCB) estimates a population in Mentone of 364 residents, meaning the legislation would need to significantly decrease the current minimum population.

Repealing or circumventing alcohol-related wet/dry laws and Sunday Blue Laws has often proven a difficult task in Alabama. The legislation that lowered the population minimum from 7,000 to 1,000 residents failed numerous times before finally passing in 2009. Upon passage, former Gov. Bob Riley promptly vetoed the bill, requiring an override from the legislature before finally being enacted. Also, during the last legislative session, a measure to decrease the population requirement for a wet/dry vote to a population of 500 was unable to make it through both houses of the Alabama Legislature.

If Ledbetter and Livingston are able to successfully usher a bill through the legislature and Mentone becomes eligible for a referendum Alabama law requires a petition to be signed by residents who are registered voters and total at least 30 percent of the number of people from the town who voted in the previous general election before a wet/dry referendum can be called.

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