The state legislature has enacted laws that provide a method for a community to control and impose certain limits on the availability of alcohol in a community. The "local option" laws found in Title 4 of the Alaska Statutes and Title 3 of the Alaska Administrative Code provide the method for a municipality or an established village to impose limits and requires community involvement through the petition and "local option" election process. The local option laws are the legal process that results in the common terms of “dry”, “damp”, or “wet”. (The Alcoholic Beverage Control Board was previously located in Title 13 of the Alaska Administrative Code but that was changed in October 2012)
The process for adopting a local option varies some, depending on whether the option is being adopted within the boundaries of an incorporated municipality or an established village. In the case of an incorporated municipality, a local option election is administered by the municipality in accordance with the municipality's election ordinance, state statute - AS 29.26.110 - 160, and the procedure spelled out in Title 4. In an established village, the election is administered by the State of Alaska, Division of Elections in accordance with the state's election procedures found in Title 15 of the Alaska Statutes.
Within a municipality the local option statute, AS 04.11.491, provides five options that residents may vote on and within an established village there are four options. The reason for the difference is that a municipality may ban sale, except by premises operated by the municipality. Following is a synopsis of the options:
The laws on enacting a local option can be difficult to follow, partly because they incorporate the provisions of Title 4, Title 15, and Title 29, plus federal and local law that are intertwined in a complicated fashion. Assistance with the local option election process is available through the Alcohol Beverage Control Board, State Division of Elections, and Commerce's Division of Community and Regional Affairs' regional office staff. The publication “Title 4 Local Option Law: Controlling Alcohol in Alaska’s Cities and Villages” found in the Additional Resources section below provides more detail and sample forms that are on this LOGON chapter.
The local option process begins when sponsors submit an application for petition to the municipal clerk. The clerk then reviews the application and, if appropriate, prepares the petition, determines the number of signatures required, and returns it to the sponsor(s) to obtain signatures. After the petition receives the required number of signatures and is signed and dated by the sponsor, the clerk reviews the petition and either certifies it as sufficient, or, if it is insufficient, returns it to the sponsor to correct. After the petition is certified, the clerk begins preparation for an election. If a special election is called, pre-clearance has to be gotten from Department of Justice.
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The LOGON chapter on Elections and the following steps detail the process for conducting a local option election:
1. After identifying the desired option, an interested party submits an application for petition to the municipal clerk with the following:
2. The municipal clerk has two weeks to review and certify the application and, if the application meets the requirements, prepare the petition (AS 29.26.120). The clerk reviews the application for the following:
3. Within two weeks after certification of the application, the clerk must prepare a petition with:
Signatures must be in ink and must be legible.
After the petition is prepared, the clerk must notify the contact person in writing. The contact person is responsible for notifying the other sponsors. Copies of the petition must be available for each sponsor that requests one (AS 29.26.120(c)).
Signatures must be legible, unless accompanied by a legible printed name; must be accompanied by a legible address; and must be a person who resides in the affected area, or they are to be rejected by the clerk (AS 29.26.130).
After a community adopts a local option, the municipality may enact ordinances and impose fines and penalties for violation of its local option and maintain law enforcement officials to enforce these ordinances. AS 04.21.010 authorizes a municipality to enact ordinances governing, importation, barter, sale, consumption, and possession consistent with the provisions of Title 4 and clarifies that an ordinance is not inconsistent if it limits: the monthly amounts that may be imported, the percent of alcohol that a beverage may contain, and the type of container that may be possessed.
Does a local option ballot have to contain certain wording?
Yes. The ballot must contain language substantially similar to the language spelled out in statute and, if applicable, must include a summary explanation of the authority to sell alcohol, a statement that a beverage dispensary license is commonly known as a “bar” and a package store is commonly known as a “liquor store.” (AS 04.11.491(c) and (d))
How soon and how often can a new petition be filed?
After a petition is certified, another petition may not be filed until the question is voted on (AS 04.11.507(g)). Also, a new petition may not be filed on the same matter sooner than six months after a petition is rejected (AS 29.26.160), nor may a new election be conducted to remove a local option or change to a less restrictive option during the first 12 months after the local option was adopted nor more than once in an 18 month period (AS 04.11.507(f)).
Is there a time limit after the petition is certified for placing the question on the ballot?
There is sometimes confusion about the extent to which the election process spelled out in Title 29 applies to a local option election. The portion of Title 4 (AS 04.11.507) directing how a local option election is conducted in a municipality simply states that AS 29.26.110 - 29.26.160 apply. This does not include AS 29.26.170, which requires that an election be conducted within no sooner than 45 days or, if no regular election is scheduled within 75 days, that a special election be held within 75 days. Since Title 4 doesn't incorporate that part of Title 29, the timeline spelled out in local ordinance would apply (usually, this mimics the 45/75 day rule found in Title 29).
Does a municipality have to pass a local option in order to run a municipal liquor store?
No. AS 04.11.505 provides that a municipality must obtain a license if a majority of the voters vote to prohibit the sale of alcohol except on premises operated by the municipality; however, subsection (b) states, "…nothing in this section precludes a municipality from applying to be a licensee under other provisions of this title."
What is the procedure for holding a local option election within an established village?
AS 04.11.507(c) directs that upon receipt of a petition containing signatures of 35 percent or more of the registered voters residing within an established village, the lieutenant governor will place on a separate ballot at a special election whichever local option action is the subject of the petition. In the case of an established village, a special election is conducted under the provisions of the state's election statute Title 15 and administered by the lieutenant governor's office.
The process begins with forming a committee to draft the language to appear on the petition application submitted to the lieutenant governor's office. Once the petition application is approved, a petition is prepared by the state and given to the sponsors to obtain the necessary signatures (35% or more of the registered voters residing within an established village). When the petition is returned to the state and determined sufficient, Division of Elections holds an election and the question is put to the voters of the affected area. Contact the State of Alaska, Division of Elections for details on conducting a local option election within an established village.
What is the procedure for changing a local option?
The same procedure used to enact a local option is used to change a local option. A local option cannot be removed or changed to a less restrictive option within 12 months of the date of adoption, nor can an option question be put to the vote more than once in an 18-month period (AS 04.11.507(f)). Also, a new petition may not be filed on the same matter sooner than six months after a petition is rejected (AS 29.26.160).
What is the boundary of the area that is subject to the local option?
Within a municipality, the municipality has jurisdiction within its municipal boundary as shown on the certificate of incorporation. Within an established village, the local option enacted by the community may be enforced within a 5-mile radius of the Post Office or, if there is no Post Office, within 5-miles of a point designated by the governing body or ABC Board if there is no established village or the perimeter does not accurately reflect the boundary of the established village. (AS 04.11.508)
When does a local option or change in local option go into effect?
There are different effective dates, depending on what local option activity has occurred and whether there are licensed premises in the community. Following is a synopsis:
(In the case of adoption of a ban on possession, AS 04.11.501 provides that upon adoption of a local option banning possession, an ordinance is adopted containing the provisions of this section (AS 04.11.501).)
Can a municipality impose a fine for a violation of a local option law?
Yes. A local option law is a local law and the local governing body may impose a penalty for violation of its law. State law AS 29.25.070 authorizes a governing body to impose a penalty for a violation of a municipal ordinance and AS 04.21.010(b) authorizes a municipality to adopt an ordinance making the sale, importation, or possession of alcoholic beverages a misdemeanor to the extent prohibited under the local option.
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