Monroe City Council fails to get vote on package store referendum

MONROE, GA (Dec. 22, 2022) Attempts to get a package store in Monroe continue to be thwarted. A Resolution was prepared for the December City Council meeting but nobody stepped up to propose a vote on it either way and it died for lack of a motion. As a result, there will not be a referendum on the ballot at the March or July 2023 Special Elections.

Prior to the November Election, the Monroe City Council had voted 7 – 1 to place the referendum on the ballot. Councilman Larry Bradley was the only opposing vote. However, it didn’t make it in on time to be on the ballot last month and subsequently the constituents did not have an opportunity to vote on it.

“We had a Resolution to allow it on the November ballot but there is a way forward to resolve it so we’ve crafted a new one for March 2023 that we would be able to have,” Monroe City Administrator Logan Propes said prior to Mayor John Howard calling for a proposal. Propes said there would possibly be a Special Election for the Board of Elections post vacated by the resignation of Simoan Capers Baker and if not March, possibly June or July 2023.

However, that is now a moot point as there was no support for the referendum from any of the city council members at the Dec. 13 City Council meeting.

There had been a move in Monroe to call for a referendum on whether or not to allow for the sale of distilled spirits in the city back in 2020. Under Georgia law at that time, in order to call for a referendum election to authorize the issuance of licenses for the package sale of distilled a petition had to be presented to the relevant municipality. It was required to have least 35 percent of the registered and qualified voters sign on to the petition. For the City of Monroe, that would have required at least 3,000 signatures. Ty Vance had been contracted to obtain the signatures necessary to place the referendum on the ballot in November 2020 and in February he began the task of getting the signatures for an unnamed client. He had until August 2020 to get the required signatures, but the pandemic shut that down and no more has been done on it since then.

Vance said he had explained that the petition was not to approve a package store in the city, but merely a call for a referendum to let the voters themselves make that decision.

“It is about democracy. This is not a vote as to whether you are in favor of or against it.” Vance said said at the time. “It is only to give the citizens of Monroe the opportunity to vote on this issue.”

It the petition, it was pointed out that all the counties that border Walton County, as well as the cities of Walnut Grove and Loganville, currently sell distilled spirits.

“All taxes from the purchase of distilled spirits from the citizens of Monroe are going everywhere but the City of Monroe,” Vance said. “Think about what impact the sale of distilled spirits would have on the tax base in Monroe.”

Since then the Georgia legislature amended the law, obviating the need for the petition. A city or municipality can now instead vote to call for a referendum to be placed on the ballot in the event of a city-wide election taking place.

However, that will not happen in Monroe. Howard said he believes that a referendum can still be put on the ballot at the November 2023 city-wide election if a petition drive of 35 % of the voters calling for it is obtained. Vance said at this time he is not aware of such a petition drive being re-commissioned.

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