Glad tidings for all you liquor fans left sober and crying after the defeat of Initiative 1100 last week: State senator Tim Sheldon (D-35) says he plans to introduce a referendum in the legislature next year to privatize the state's outdated liquor system—and it would be free of the flaws that felled I-1100. Sheldon, who has pushed bills to privatize liquor sales in Washington State for over a decade, says that I-1100's narrow defeat—46.7 percent voted for the measure statewide; 53.3 percent against—proves that the public doesn't believe selling liquor is a core function of government. And voters deserve another chance to weigh in on a better measure next November, he says.
"I still think it’s going to be an uphill fight," says Sheldon, adding that many of his fellow Democrats don't believe privatization should move forward. "But I would hope that given the fact that such a large percent of the people voted for privatization with obvious flaws in there, there’s a lot of public support for getting us out of liquor business."
The obvious flaws with I-1100 he's talking about have been pointed out by many, including I-1100's creator, conservative blogger Stefan Sharkansky. "I think the two main things that stuck with voters were the loss of revenue to city and county governments and the ads that the opposition ran with gas stations selling to teenagers until 2:00 a.m.," Sharkansky said when reached by phone yesterday. "It was a bogus argument with no logical reasoning, but the whole public safety concern stuck in people’s minds."
Sheldon explains that a referendum allows for the best of both worlds: public comment and tweaking of the measure through the legislative process, and ultimately, a people's vote for or against the measure (instead of requiring the governor's signature). "The public could have a serious dialogue about enforcement, prices, taxation, the number of licenses out there, the conditions of licenses, and revenue," he says. "In my last bill, revenue wouldn't have decreased [for cities and counties] and the distribution center would've been auctioned off for profit. Through the process I'm proposing, cities and counties will have a strong voice in what would go before the people."
Sheldon says he plans on prefiling the bill before January 10, 2011, when the legislative session begins.