- Effort to revise prohibition on tap in the Magnolia State.
Mississippi’s House of Representatives passed a bill on Tuesday that would effectively remove prohibition from state law.
The bill – HB 777 – will automatically allow cities under 5,000 in population to sell liquor and wine. If the municipalities do not wish to do so, citizens can reverse the decision through the referendum process at the local level.
It has only been since 1966 that Mississippi repealed its statewide prohibition law – the last state to do so.
Current law now allows for counties to choose whether to be “wet or dry.” The terminology “wet and dry” refers to counties that allow liquor sales (wet) and those who do not (dry).
“When are we going to bring Mississippi into the 21st century? This bill is a small bite of the apple in opening our alcohol laws,” said State Representative Hank Zuber (R).
According to Zuber, Mississippi has under 30 counties out of its 82 that are still considered dry. Some of those counties are considered “semi” dry. Many cities inside those areas allow liquor sales. For instance, Rankin County in central Mississippi is a dry county, but the City of Brandon in Rankin allows the sale of liquor and wine.
Rep. Zuber said roughly 50 small cities would be impacted by the law.
The legislation would also give larger cities that are in a currently dry county the authority to hold a local vote to allow liquor sales.
Zuber went on to add that the big picture for this particular bill is that lawmakers continue working on the state’s public policy concerning alcohol. He added that the bill would not impact previously adopted policy for qualified resort areas across Mississippi.
State Representative Scott Bounds (R), who voted against the bill, said he wasn’t passionately opposed to the legislation but felt it would create more issues for small communities.
“I’m not necessarily against what this is doing, I’m just old school, I guess. It impacts so few cities, I just felt like we should leave the law the way it is and let them opt in instead of opting out,” said Bounds.
Cities and county seats in dry counties can currently opt into selling hard liquor with 20 percent of the municipality’s voters supporting a ballot referendum to have the issue placed before the public in a local election.
The House voted 93-21 to move HB 777 forward, sending it across the Capitol for consideration by the state Senate.
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