PIGEON FORGE, Tenn. (AP) — Voters in Pigeon Forge have again approved liquor by the drink. This time, the margin was 154 votes.
The Mountain Press (http://bit.ly/ZtC0Uc ) reported Ken Maples, who led the pro-liquor initiative, said the election Thursday validated the choice voters initially made on Nov. 6.
Results of that referendum were thrown out by a court over confusion about who was allowed to vote. The question was on a crowded general election ballot, headed by the presidential race.
Jess Davis, who is co-chairman of Concerned Churches and Citizens of Pigeon Forge, said his group was disappointed in the outcome and might contest the results.
The Sevier County Election Commission meets March 21 to certify the vote.
PIGEON FORGE, Tenn. (AP) — Proponents of liquor by the drink in Pigeon Forge are vastly outspending a group trying to defeat the issue as it comes back for another vote.
The Mountain Press (http://bit.ly/13Vud7j ) reported proponent group Forging Ahead filed documents showing it had received nearly $27,000 between Jan. 1 and Feb. 26.
Concerned Churches and Citizens of Pigeon Forge reported it had about $3,400 in donations.
Voters narrowly approved a liquor referendum in November, but it was overturned after complaints that people who live outside the city were allowed to vote.
On Thursday, Pigeon Forge voters will again choose whether to allow restaurant liquor sales.
A lawsuit has been filed challenging the results of a liquor-by-the-drink referendum in the town of Pigeon Forge, reports the News Sentinel. The lawsuit filed on behalf of Concerned Churches & Citizens of Pigeon Forge in Sevier County Chancery Court claims an “incurable uncertainty” surrounds the results of the Nov. 6 referendum that saw liquor-by-the-drink approved by a margin of 100 votes.
The election marked the issue’s third appearance on the ballot since 2009.
Proponents of liquor by the drink called the lawsuit a “frivolous” refusal to accept defeat at the polls.
“We kind of consider it sour grapes,” said Ken Maples, an owner of the Comfort Inn & Suites in Pigeon Forge and a member of Forging Ahead, which campaigned for the proposal. “Both times we were defeated, we licked our wounds and went home. Our opposition finds it necessary to file a lawsuit.”
…The lawsuit cites complaints of city residents not being allowed to vote on the referendum and of county residents getting a vote. Vote totals don’t match up, according to the lawsuit, and some voters’ addresses lead nowhere.
The final vote tally added up to 1,232 votes in favor of liquor by the drink and 1,132 votes against. That’s a total of 2,364 votes — 303 more than voter rolls list as taking part in the election, according to the lawsuit.
“Somehow 303 more votes ended up on the referendum than were registered,” said Lewis Howard Jr., the attorney who filed the lawsuit.
Residents already have filed complaints with the election commission. The lawsuit demands the results be thrown out and a new referendum ordered.
News release from U.S. Rep. Scott DesJarlais:
WASHINGTON, DC -Representative Scott DesJarlais (TN-04) sent a letter to Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius asking for information on the use of federal funds administered by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) in lobbying and public advocacy efforts attacking American food and beverage products.
Several states have used federal grants to run public affairs and lobbying campaigns to push for taxes on soda products, an act prohibited by the federal government. Additionally, states have been using CDC grant money to run misleading advertisements attacking American food and beverage products and the companies that make them.
Representative DesJarlais has introduced legislation preventing the use of taxpayer dollars in advertising campaigns against any food or beverage deemed safe and lawfully marketed under the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act.
State Sen. Doug Overbey is fighting back against the suggestion he was involved in some secret deal to sneak liquor into Pigeon Forge, reports The Mountain Press. He says the accusations made by some in that city are “pure fiction.” Though he was not named specifically, businessman Jess Davis leveled allegations during a recent City Commission meeting that a “Tennessee senator” was in on closed-door meetings Davis claims were held on an end-around for spirits. Overbey is the only person who represents Sevier County in the state’s Senate and, like everyone else Davis claims or suggests was part of the gathering, vehemently denies there was such a meeting.
“I have hatched no plan and I have not been part of hatching some plan,” Overbey told The Mountain Press. “My consistent position has been that the citizens’ vote in May needs to be respected. I could not support or go along with anything other than that and, if it’s desire, a new referendum on this issue.”
The Tennessee Obesity Task Force has made its recommendations for action by the state Legislature in the 2012 session, reports The Tennessean. The group wants to be sure all schools are complying with the state’s 90-minutes-a-week mandate for physical education, a tax on sugar-sweetened soft drinks and increased fines for speeding in school zones.
Rebecca Johns-Wommack, the state’s executive director of the Office of Coordinated School Health, said her office will spend the school year monitoring complaince with the 90-minute weekly physical activity law and must report back to the legislature in August on which schools are in compliance. Last school year, that was 85 percent of Tennessee schools, she said.
“We’re living in a fiscally conservative environment, so we are currently focusing on policies that do not carry large fiscal notes or that might actually bring in revenues,” said Joan Randall, director of the Tennessee Obesity Task Force. “Our policies attempt to raise awareness and create an environment that supports healthier lifestyles.”
Increasing the fine for speeding in a school zone by $50 could make it safer for kids to walk and bike to school, plus the money would go to the Safe Routes to School program, which encourages exercise through walking or biking to schools.
The soda tax bill, as its been dubbed, would place a 1-cent-per-ounce tax on bottled, sugar-sweetened beverages purchased at convenience and grocery stores, but reduce the state food tax by 1 percent. The bill, which was sponsored by State Rep. Mike Stewart, D-Nashville, last session, was held up in the House Finance Subcommittee. Stewart plans to present it again during the next session
Ten businesses are on track to get special permission from the Legislature this week to sell liquor by the drink, while one that wanted a special “resort license” was turned down.
The difference, according to knowledgeable legislators and lobbyists, is that the proposal for Hickory Star Marina on Norris Lake ran afoul of a tacit understanding on such measures, sometimes flippantly called “booze bills.”
The understanding: No special booze bill will pass unless the legislator representing the district of the business to be licensed gives the go-ahead, even if he or she officially objects to the idea and votes against it.
“They will never go against a member,” said Tom Hensley, veteran lobbyist for the Wine and Spirits Wholesalers of Tennessee. He and lobbying colleague John New monitor the bills closely, Hensley said.