Lexington puts Sunday beer and wine sales on the ballot

07/30/2014 9:18 PM

03/14/2015 2:11 AM

The Nov. 4 ballot in Lexington County will be packed.

As expected Wednesday, County Council added the question of Sunday sales of beer and wine to ballots countywide. Voters in unincorporated areas, as well as 11 municipalities, will decide the matter.

That means voting machines will be loaded with thought-provoking issues: In addition to the beer and wine measure, a penny-on-the-dollar sales tax for roads and other projects; in Lexington 2, a bond issue for school improvements; and in Cayce, a separate vote on Sunday beer and wine sales.

The two County Council members against putting the measure on the ballot expressed moral objections, while Councilwoman Debbie Summers, voting with the majority, said she’d been offended by a warning among the many calls, emails and other comments “that the wrath is going to come down on me.”

She said the council has avoided dealing with the issue long enough.

But outgoing Councilman Bill Banning said the package sales of beer and wine on Sundays was a line he just wasn’t willing to cross.

“I’m afraid next they’re going to want to legalize marijuana in Lexington County,” he said. “You’ve got to stop somewhere.”

With two members absent, the vote was 5-2.

Voting for: Summers, Kent Collins, Johnny Jeffcoat, Bobby Keisler and Brad Matthews.

Against: Banning, Jim Kinard.

The mix of ballot measures has political strategists wondering how the issues might affect one another.

Consultant R.J. Shealy said if the question of Sunday sales has any impact on the other questions, it would be modest — but most likely hurt, not help, them.

Generally speaking, the more ballot questions, the more the likelihood that voters will skip over them or simply check the “no” box to speed up the process, said Shealy, who is working against the penny tax.

His guess is that the issue of Sunday sales will generate a lot of participation because the issue is easier to size up than the tax questions.

The issue of Sunday sales of beer and wine is unlikely to generate a campaign — at least if the November 2011 referendum in the town of Lexington is any guide, said Randy Halfacre, with the Greater Lexington Chamber of Commerce.

Halfacre was the mayor of Lexington then. The referendum passed by a landslide.

“There were a few ministers that showed up and expressed their concern but, other than that, there was no orchestrated effort, pro or con,” he said.

The chamber has a group working for the sales tax but is unlikely to get involved in Sunday sales, pushed by convenience and grocery stores that compete across Lexington and Richland counties, Halfacre said.

He said each of the three issues will stand or fall on its own.

Bill Bingham, chairman of the Lexington 2 school board, agrees.

He said he has “no idea” whether the district’s request for a property-tax hike would be affected by questions about a local sales tax and the Sunday sales of beer and wine on the ballot.

“Our job is difficult enough ... without trying to overthink the political side — will this affect this or that. Our position is very simple: We can’t wait two more years” to address needed improvements, he said.

“How the rest of it plays out, I’m going to have to leave it to the political minds and gurus to sort out how that might all play together.”

Reach Hinshaw at (803) 771-8641.

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