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Regulation and control of alcohol in small rural Alaskan communities presents several unique challenges. A major factor in these challenges is that most communities are relatively isolated and lack extensively developed law enforcement or health care facilities. To help deal with these challenges, the Alaska State Legislature has enacted laws to provide ways for communities to regulate alcohol use and control the availability of alcohol in the community.
Under the provisions of AS 04.11.491 voters in a community may choose a local option to control availability and sale of alcohol from a list of options spelled out in statute. Within a municipality the local option statute 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. The options provided in Title 4 are:
In a community that has not adopted a local option the local governing body may still regulate alcohol in the community through other provisions of law. How this occurs is discussed in detail later in this chapter.
NOTE: In July 2003, Executive Order 110 transferred administration of the Alcohol Beverage Control Board from Department of Revenue to Department of Public Safety. The regulations are now found in Title 13 instead of Title 15.
What is the procedure for adopting a local option?
A local option is adopted under the state's local option election procedure found in AS 04.11.507 - .509. The process varies some, depending on whether the option is being adopted within the boundaries of an incorporated municipality or an established village. In both cases, the process involves a petition filed with the appropriate authority to initiate the process and an election on the question if the petition gets the appropriate number of good signatures.
Title 4 directs that upon receipt of a petition containing signatures of registered voters equal to or more than 35 percent of the number of votes cast at the last regular municipal election or, in the case of an established village, 35 percent or more of the registered voters residing within the village, the appropriate entity will place on a separate ballot whichever local option action is the subject of the petition.
In a municipality the election is conducted under the municipality's regular or special election ordinance, the municipal election statutes found in AS 29.26.110 - 160, and the procedure spelled out in Title 4. In the case of an established village, a special election is conducted under the provisions of the state's election statute found in Alaska Statutes Title 15 and administered by the lieutenant governor's office.
See the LOGON chapters on Elections for additional information on conducting a local option election.
What is the procedure for changing or removing a local option?
The same procedure used to enact a local option is used to change or remove 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, in a municipality a new petition may not be filed on the same matter sooner than six months after a petition is rejected (AS 29.26.160).
In addition to the local option process, are there other methods for regulating alcohol?
Both Title 4 and Title 29 authorize regulation of alcohol. Under AS 04.11.480 a local governing body may protest the issuance, renewal, relocation, transfer, or continued operation of a license or recommend conditions to be placed on the license (The board must provide notice of an application within 10 days of receiving it (AS 04.11.520)). In addition, AS 04.11.491(f) authorizes a municipality or established village, that has adopted a local option to prohibit or limit sale of alcohol, to further control alcohol by designating a site for delivery of alcohol in amounts over one liter of distilled spirits, two liters of wine, or one gallon of malt beverage.
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. AS 29.35.080 also authorizes a municipality to regulate as authorized in title 4 through protest or adoption of a local option and municipal ordinance.
Is it legal to make "home brew"?
AS 04.21.015 addresses private manufacture of alcohol. In communities that have exercised their option to control alcohol through the local option process, whichever local option is in place for the community applies to manufacture of alcohol within the jurisdiction of the community. AS 04.21.015 exempts private manufacture of alcohol from the provisions of Title 4, except in communities that have adopted a local option or in cases where the amount manufactured exceeds the limits allowed under federal regulation. Federal regulation 27 CFR 25.205 imposes limits on the amount of homemade alcohol that can be legally manufactured.
What is the boundary of the area that is subject to the local option?
A municipality has jurisdiction within its municipal boundary and can enforce a local option within that boundary. 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).
If a municipality that has enacted a local option dissolves, is the local option still in effect?
Yes. If a municipality dissolves, a local option in effect remains in effect for an established village within the area encompassed by the previous municipal boundary; however, a license for premises operated by the municipality expires when the municipality dissolves. (AS 04.11.491(e))
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."
Who is responsible for enforcing a community's local option law?
State troopers and state courts have jurisdiction to enforce local option laws. Title 29 provides municipalities with the power to enforce local ordinances and to prescribe penalties for the violation of ordinances (AS 29.35.010). AS 29.20.250 and AS 29.20.500 vest the mayor and manager with the duty and responsibility to supervise the enforcement of municipal law.
If a local police officer is not available, the mayor or manager is a peace officer as defined in AS 01.10.060(a)(7)(F) and AS 11.81.900(b)(43) and is authorized to take actions necessary to maintain the public peace. (See the Local Government Handbook chapter on "Ordinances" for more information on enforcement of ordinances.)
Peace Officer definitions
AS 01.10.060(a)(7) "peace officer" means
AS 11.81.900(b)(43) "peace officer" means a public servant vested by law with a duty to maintain public order or to make arrests, whether the duty extends to all offenses or is limited to a specific class of offenses or offenders.
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. See LOGON chapter on Municipal Ordinances, and the Local Government Handbook Chapters on Ordinances and Maintaining Public Safety, for more information.
Note: Penalties may be imposed only if copies of the ordinances are made available to the public at no more than cost.
Can a municipality tax alcoholic beverages?
Yes and no. If a municipality imposes a property tax and/or sales tax, it may tax alcohol the same as all other property and sales are taxed. Under AS 04.21.010(c) a municipality may not impose taxes on alcoholic beverages except a "(1) property tax on alcoholic beverage inventories; (2) sales tax on alcoholic beverage sales if sales taxes are imposed on other sales within the municipality; (3) sales tax on alcoholic beverage sales that was in effect before July 1, 1985;."
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.)
If a local option is adopted, who needs to be notified?
As soon as the law passes, the Alcohol Beverage Control Board must be notified of the outcome of the election. In the case of a municipality, the municipal clerk is responsible for providing this notice and in an established village, the Lieutenant Governor's office provides notice to the ABCB. The ABCB is then responsible for providing notice to Department of Law, Department of Public Safety, and all package store licensees who sell in response to a written solicitation. The local governing body is responsible for posting notice of a prohibition in a central location in the community (AS 04.11.509(a)).
Information about the local alcohol policy should always be posted in the community to remind community members and visitors what the rules are. The local governing body should also notify local air carriers and other transport/shipping services that have or may do business with community members.
The laws on enacting a local option are sometimes difficult to interpret, partly because they incorporate the provisions of Title 4, Title 15, and Title 29, plus federal and local law. To ensure the correct interpretation of the law being implemented, contact the Alcohol Beverage Control Board, and State Division of Elections as well as the state's Division of Community and Regional Affairs local Regional Office for assistance.
State statutes (See current Alaska Statutes)
Regulations (See current State of Alaska Regulations)