Liqour selections

Oregon Supreme Court rules existing voting title on liquor privatization measure will stand

After a long wait, the Oregon Supreme Court on March 29 left intact the ballot title for a move that would end the Oregon Liquor and Cannabis Commission’s virtual monopoly on cannabis sales. alcohol and would allow state grocery stores to sell alcohol.

Trent Lutz, an official with the Oregon Education Association, challenged the title of the certified ballot for the measure on Jan. 5.

Lutz previously voiced his objections to the measure in comments on the ballot’s original title. “This measure would cap revenue to the general fund and divert additional revenue to a separate fund,” Lutz wrote Dec. 2. “It could impact the dollars available for many other critical resources that impact our students.”

Almost three months later, however, the court decided on the title, which reads: “Eligible retailers and wholesalers may be permitted to sell distilled alcohol; sales-taxed retailers” would suffice.

Grocers have already tried twice to wrest a business from the state that grocery stores in California, Washington and other states have long enjoyed. In 2014 and 2016, major grocer-aligned petitioners filed ballot initiatives but did not go to the polls in both years.

Last year, proponents of ending the OLCC’s grip on alcohol again tabled several ballot initiatives — as petitioners often do so they can choose between draft ballot titles. prepared by the Oregon Department of Justice. Proponents have moved forward with the first draft of what they call the Customer Choice and Convenience Act of 2022.

The interest of grocers is simple: unlike produce, meat and fish, alcohol does not spoil. Oregonians like to drink it, and it is a lucrative product that grocers cannot sell in Oregon except in a few rural stores.

During the comment period on the Certified Ballot Title, the Secretary of State’s Elections Division received 168 pages of material. The meat of the comments consisted of objections from the private group most vehemently opposed to the privatization of the OLCC: the Oregon Beer and Wine Distributors Association, whose economic interests would be threatened if the OLCC’s control over alcoholic beverages were diminished. .

The OAS and other unions, including the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, which represents some OLCC employees, also oppose the measure, saying it threatens cash flow. from OLCC liquor sales to states and local governments, as well as union jobs. (Grocers have proposed replacing this cash flow with a tax.)

The grocers are now planning to move forward with collecting signatures.

DHM Research pollster John Horvick says voters are the most unhappy they have been in the nearly 30 years his company has kept records. This bodes well for what is an anti-government initiative. However, time is running out: promoters only have until July 8 to collect 112,020 valid signatures.