Spin Control

Booze initiative turns in 354,000 signatures

OLYMPIA -- Employees at the Washington Secretary of State's office handle boxes of petitions submitted by the sponsors of I-1183, which would privatize liquor sales. (Jim Camden)
OLYMPIA -- Employees at the Washington Secretary of State's office handle boxes of petitions submitted by the sponsors of I-1183, which would privatize liquor sales. (Jim Camden)

Employees at the Secretary of State's Elections Division handle boxes of petitions submitted for I-1183.

OLYMPIA -- Sponsors of Initiative 1183, a proposal to get the state out of the liquor business, may have achieved a modern-day record by collecting some 354,000 in just three weeks.

They turned in their petitions this morning, the first of three campaigns that definitely plan to turn in signatures on the last day allowed for petition drives. A fourth, to legalize marijuana for those 18 and older, has informed the Secretary of State's office they, too, may have enough to submit.

I-1183 would sell off the state's wholesale and retail liquor operations. Unlike last year's failed attempt to revamp the liquor system, it offers more money to the state, requires more training and tougher penalties for employees of stores that sell liquor and limits sales in most communities to stores with 10,000 square feet or larger -- the size of most supermarkets -- to avoid a complaint that liquor could be at every Mini Mart and gas station that currently sells beer or wine.

If every store that qualifies were to obtain a liquor license, the number of liquor outlets in the state -- currently 340 -- could triple.

Bruce Beckett of the Washington Restaurant Association, one of the sponsors of the initiative, also said it may help to have only one liquor-related initiative on this year's ballot. Last year there were two competing initiatives, and when voters didn't know much about the differences, they probably voted no, he said.

One unknown, he added was whether the the nation's beer industry, which came out strongly against the most similar initiative in 2010, will get into the campaign this year, Beckett said.




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Jim Camden
Jim Camden is the Olympia bureau chief, covering the Legislature and state government. He also is a political columnist and blogger for Spin Control.

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