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Archive for Wednesday, May 5, 2004

Sunday sales legislation resurfaces

May 5, 2004

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— Down but not out, legislation allowing liquor stores to open on Sundays was revived Wednesday -- with fresh language permitting convenience and grocery stores to peddle beer on Sundays as well.

Both provisions were approved in the House last year. But the Senate has twice defeated Sunday liquor sales this year and has not voted on Sunday beer sales in convenience and grocery stores.

The new proposal was drafted by legislative negotiators after the House on Tuesday refused even to debate their previous measure, which would have reaffirmed Kansas' historic prohibition on Sunday liquor sales.

Legislators were forced to address the state's liquor laws after the Kansas Supreme Court in March 2003 upheld Wyandotte County's adoption of a local ordinance allowing Sunday sales.

The court said that because some provisions of the state's Liquor Control Act applied only to selected cities and counties, the law was not "uniform" and communities could exempt themselves from parts of it by using their home rule authority.

Fourteen cities, mostly in eastern Kansas, have since adopted Sunday sales laws. If legislators adjourn this year without making the Liquor Control Act uniform, those communities could continue allowing Sunday sales -- and others could follow suit.

Kansas law restricts grocery and convenience stores to selling cereal malt beverage, also known as weak beer. Strong beer, wine and liquor can be sold only by liquor stores.

But cereal malt beverage is covered by a different law, so that if legislators do nothing this year, Sunday sales of beer in grocery and convenience stores would still be banned.

Under negotiators' compromise, Sunday beer sales in grocery and convenience stores would be handled like Sunday liquor sales. City and county governments would be permitted to adopt ordinances allowing Sunday sales, and opponents would have 30 days to get enough signatures on a petition to force the issue onto a ballot.

Some members of both chambers who oppose Sunday sales liquor and beer say they'd rather leave the law as it is than endorse Sunday sales.

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