Issue would appear on March ballot if enough signatures collected

Supporters of a local petition to allow Mountain Home stores to sell alcohol on Sundays will have a few extra days to collect signatures.

The Sunday alcohol petition — which can be viewed and signed at Jack’s Package Store, Judicious Spirits or Midtown Spirits — requires the signatures of at least 622 registered voters living inside the city limits to be placed on the ballot. The petition has been circulating since late September.

Supporters had previously used Tuesday, Dec. 3 as the cutoff to collect signatures for the petition but extended their deadline after consulting with attorneys.

Arkansas has one set of laws laying out the requirements for bringing general issues to the public through petitions, and a second set of rules specifically applying to municipal alcohol petitions, creating some uncertainly on the final day to collect signatures.

Petition organizers said Dec. 19 was now their likely deadline to collect signatures because the Mountain Home City Council would be required to pass an ordinance calling for the item to be placed on the March 3 primary election ballot. The Council meets on the first and third Thursdays of the month, which falls on Dec. 5 and Dec. 19 this month.

The petition’s actual deadline is Dec. 26 but collecting signatures until that date would cause the petition to miss the deadline to be printed on the March ballot.

If approved by Mountain Home voters, the petition would allow grocery stores, gas stations and liquor stores located inside the Mountain Home city limits to sell alcohol from 10 a.m. until 10 p.m. on Sundays, something that is currently prohibited.

In Baxter County, Norfork and Salesville offer such sales, commonly called “off premise” sales to distinguish those transactions from alcohol purchased at a restaurant during a meal. Sunday off premise sales are also available in certain parts of Marion County and across the Missouri border.

The Arkansas Legislature’s Act 294 of 2009 allowed restaurants with the correct Alcohol Beverage Control Division license to sell alcohol on Sundays. It also allowed municipalities to decide whether they wished to allow off premise Sunday alcohol sales through a citywide election.

Under Act 294, supporters must collect valid signatures equal to 15 percent of the votes cast in the last governor’s race. Mountain Home residents cast 4,144 votes the last race, giving petitioners the target of 622 signatures to collect. Signees are required to be a registered voter living inside the city limits.

Petition signatures are first delivered to the Mountain Home Clerk’s Office, which then turns them over to the Baxter County Clerk’s Office to have the signatures verified.

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