Wednesday, March 28, 2012

House passes bill that would let Heirloom restaurant serve liquor; Rollins says Senate will agree to it

Liquor could be served in Midway restaurants with at least 50 seats, rather than 75, under an amendment to a bill passed by the state House today. Rep. Carl Rollins, D-Midway, who sponsored the change to Senate Bill 40, told the Midway Messenger that he expects the Senate to agree with the change and send it to Gov. Steve Beshear for his signature into law.

The bill was sought by the Heirloom restaurant, right, which has 58 seats and does not qualify for a liquor license under current law, which requires 75 seats in smaller towns. Mark Wombles, the manager of the restaurant, said his need to sell liquor was driven home by requests for bourbon from visitors to the 2010 World Equestrian Games, who couldn't understand how a product made in Woodford County couldn't be sold in some places in the county.

Wombles got a sufficient number of signatures on a petition for a local-option election to allow liquor by the drink at any bar or restaurant in Midway, but withdrew the petition because of legal questions and the prospect that Rollins would be able to get the law changed.

Rollins' amendment would give priority to another law, which allows liquor licenses for establishments that have at least 50 seats and are in commercial districts listed in the National Register of Historic Places, such as Midway's downtown. Rollins said the sponsor of SB 40, Sen. John Schickel, R-Union, supports the amendment and will get the Senate to agree to it.

Rollins said he was lucky to get the amendment passed, because SB 40 had been the source of disagreement between Schickel and other House members who had tacked other amendments onto the bill. In the end, the other members backed off, and the House defeated the House committee substitute to the bill, an unusual procedure. The original bill, with Rollins' amendment, passed 48-37.

"I was kind of caught in the middle," Rollins said. "Since I was just collateral damage, they let me get what I needed."

Rollins had filed House Bill 241, to generally lower restaurant-seating thresholds to 50 seats, but it went nowhere. He said the preference of legislators is to pass only one alcohol bill in each legislative session, so he worked with Schickel to clear the way for the amendment.

Rollins sees progress in bid to raise dropout age

Rollins, left, was a busy legislator today; he was a key player in House passage of a bill that would gradually increase mandatory school attendance age from 16 to 18.

The House Education Committee, which Rollins chairs, changed Senate Bill 109 on Tuesday to require all school districts to raise the age to 18 once 40 percent of them (70 districts) had done so. Originally, the bill would have allowed school districts to increase the age to 18 if they had programs for students whose lack of interest in school might make them disruptive.

For years, Rollins and the House have passed bills to raise the age to 18 over four years. Senators have resisted the change, saying too few districts had alternative programs for at-risk students.

Rollins told the Messenger that he will probably have to raise the 40 percent threshold in final negotiations with senators, but has some leverage because his Senate counterpart, retiring Republican Ken Winters of Murray, has a bill that he wants to get through the House.

UPDATE, April 1: The attempt to compromise was rejected by the Senate, which killed SB 109. Rollins said some House leaders had doubts about the constitutionality of his approach. 

No comments: