Cherokee Want Own ABC System
Special Report - May 4, 2011
The Senate Rules Committee has given initial approval to a bill that would allow the Eastern Band of the Cherokee Indians of North Carolina to operate its own Alcohol Beverage Control (ABC) Commission, rather than remaining subject to the current statewide ABC system. Under SB 324ABC Law/Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, sponsored by Sens. Tom Apodaca (RHenderson), Jim Davis (RMacon), and Ralph Hise (RMitchell), the Cherokee Indians in North Carolina would purchase liquor from the state’s ABC warehouse and then issue and monitor liquor permits on the reservation. The bill now awaits a hearing by the Senate Judiciary I Committee.
In a story by the Christian Action League (CAL), Bob Blakenship, chairman of the Eastern Band of Cherokees ABC Commission, is quoted saying the only place alcohol can be legally sold on the reservation is in the Harrah’s Casino. The Casino purchases its liquor from the Sylva and Bryson City ABC Boards, which share the profits. The story goes on to point out that the Cherokees do have their own Alcohol Law Enforcement division. Two of the officers in the division also serve in five Western North Carolina counties.
SB 324 would change that current setup, and make the Cherokee’s own ABC Commission equal to the state ABC Commission, although they would adopt the state’s current alcohol beverage laws. Under the bill, the tribal commission would have to adopt ordinances consistent with state law within six months. If the commission fails to adopt such ordinances in time, their alcohol supply would be cut off. The proposal would have the tribal government address sales to underage persons and other permit violations, rather than state law enforcement. The bill also specifies that federal laws would supersede state laws, unless the federal law is deemed unconstitutional.
During the Rules Committee hearing, members questioned how conflicts would be settled and possible disciplinary actions available if a Cherokee distribution point breaks the law, since the State could not automatically stop alcohol deliveries, as they can to commissions, boards, and stores within the existing statewide system.
CAL quoted ABC Commission Chairman Jon Williams during the meeting as saying, “In North Carolina law, all the restrictions on advertising and trade practices are found in our Administrative Code, and it is our understanding that the Easter Band, if this law were enacted as drafted, that the Administrative Code would not bind the tribe,” he said. “So for instance, questions of happy hours, unlimited advertising of alcohol products those things which are a fundamental feature of North Carolina state alcohol laws would not apply on the reservation.”
Cherokee Casino Wants Expanded Alcohol Sales - November 24, 2009
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