by Lee Hogan
Posted 7/7/2014 04:41 pm
Updated 5 months ago
The local option ballot question committee pushing for the legalization of alcohol sales in three Arkansas counties turned in signatures to two county clerks Monday.
Our Community, Our Dollars submitted petitions to clerks in Saline and Craighead counties for review and validation, according to committee spokesman Marshall Ney who said July 7 is the first opportunity to file the petitions for the November ballot. The final deadline for filing is Aug. 5, Ney said.
The county clerks in Saline and Craighead counties now have 10 days to review and validate the signatures.
In ordinance with state law, for the issue to be placed on the Nov. 4 ballot, signatures from at least 38 percent of the registered voters in each county is needed. The committee, funded by Wal-Mart and Kum & Go, turned in 25,917 signatures in Saline County and 20,956 in Craighead County.
According to estimates, the committee needed 25,600 signatures in Saline and 20,000 in Craighead.
The committee did not submit signatures in Faulkner County. Ney said submission would be made closer to the Aug. 5 deadline. Our Community, Our Dollars will continue to collect signatures in all three counties.
Natalie Ghidotti, a spokesperson for the committee, told Arkansas Business last week that more than 75 percent of the signatures had been gathered in all three counties.
"Our primary objective with this campaign is to allow the residents of these counties to be formally heard on an issue that hasn't been voted on in decades," Ney said in a news release. "Much has changed over time in these counties and their individual communities, including population growth and increased economic development. We would like to see these counties have the opportunity to keep more tax revenue in their communities."
The committee released its commissioned economic impact study last week from the University of Arkansas' Center for Business and Economic Research that estimated the counties would have seen a combined $87.2 million in retail alcohol sales last year.
More: View the complete study here (PDF)
According to the study, alcohol sales would have generated $247,640 in Craighead and $141,372 in Faulkner in county sales tax revenues. In city sales tax revenues, the study estimated $260,033 in Craighead, $282,744 in Faulkner and $373,573 in Saline.
If the three counties became wet, each could see more than $10 million in sales tax revenue on an annual basis, the study concluded.
Our Community, Our Dollars is led by Jay Allen, former Wal-Mart executive and Polly Martin, president of the Arkansas Grocers & Retail Merchants.
In its first financial report filed with the Arkansas Ethics Commission, the committee reported $625,000 in contributions — $600,000 from Wal-Mart Stores Inc. of Bentonville and $25,000 from Kum & Go of West Des Moines, Iowa.
The committee has spent more than $220,000 in canvassing through May 31.
Alcohol Amendment Submits Signatures
Let Arkansas Decide submitted 84,969 signatures Monday to the secretary of state's office to put a proposed constitutional amendment on the ballot. The initiative needs 78,133 signatures.
The amendment, if passed, would legalize alcohol sales in all 75 counties.
The Associated Press contributed to this article.