Alcohol debate in Oklahoma turns testy after comment about Native Americans

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OKLAHOMA CITY – Debate in the Oklahoma House over a plan to expand beer and wine sales in Oklahoma turned testy when a legislator opposed to it said it will disproportionately affect Native Americans.

The plan calls for a statewide vote on proposed constitutional changes needed to allow wine and strong beer sales in grocery and convenience stores.

During debate Thursday on the bill, Republican Rep. Todd Russ of Cordell said Native Americans process alcohol differently than other races and are “predisposed to alcoholism.”

The comments drew an angry response from Tulsa Republican Rep. Dan Kirby, the chairman of the House Native American Caucus, who called the comments out-of-order.

The measure passed on a 61-30 vote and heads to a conference committee for more deliberation.

“While the legislature is displaying caution regarding alcohol modernization, the House’s vote today on SJR 68 is a step in the right direction. We look forward to reviewing the statutory language of SB 383. As a back-up to a legislative solution, Oklahomans for Consumer Freedom (OCF) filed an initiative petition, which has been challenged. The Supreme Court is scheduled to hear arguments in May.

Although progress takes time, we remain confident there will be a vote this November. OCF will continue to advocate for the majority of Oklahomans who desire an increase in consumer choice and convenience,” said Tyler Moore, a spokesperson for Oklahomans for Consumer Freedom.

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