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What is MadisonYES! and What are we trying to accomplish?

MadisonYES Inc. is a political action committee organized under the election laws of the State of Florida. Our members are businesses and individuals who support and promote economic development opportunities including changing the DRY status in Madison County.

What is a DRY county?

A DRY county in Florida is a county that has not yet passed a referendum allowing the sale of intoxicating liquors with an alcohol content exceeding 6.243% alcohol by volume. Madison County is one of four remaining DRY counties in Florida. The State of Florida has 67 counties. Only Lafayette, Liberty, Madison, and Washington counties remain DRY today. Santa Rosa county went WET in 2005, and then Suwannee in 2011. Hamilton county voted to allow liquor by the drink in 2007. Previously Hamilton county voters had authorized the sale of intoxicating liquors by package only. The by package only status hindered the county's ability to diversify its economy by expanding the tourism industry.

Businesses that have an active beverage license may sell beer and wine coolers. But, most alcoholic beverages contain a higher percentage of alcohol by volume. Therefore, only certain types of beer can be sold today. A winery located in Madison County would not be able to sell their products due to the DRY county status. Restaurants in Madison County cannot sell wine or liquor. Major restaurant chains will NOT locate in this county because of the DRY county status. Alternatively, they are locating in WET communities like Lake City and soon Live Oak.

We need JOBS in our community! One of the volunteers from the Suwannee County effort researched Applebee's and Ruby Tuesday in Lake City. Both businesses employ 45-60 people. In 1 year Applebee's contributed $3,031,800 in tax revenues to the Columbia county community. In addition, Applebee's presence in that community helps to grow the tourism industry and that economic impact reaches further into the community. Let's look at an example: A family of 4 is traveling south. They get hungry and decide to stop to eat at Applebee's in Lake City. While there, they eat dinner; fill up with gas; perhaps stop at Wal-Mart to purchase goodies for the road; and maybe decide to stay overnight in a local hotel. There are folks employed at the restaurant, gas station, Wal-Mart, and hotel. Not to mention the other businesses that employ folks to support these businesses. Tourism is a great way to expand and diversify our economy.

What is the process to change the DRY county status in Madison County?

The process to change the DRY county status in Madison County is defined in Chapter 567 Florida Statutes. A petition must first be filed with the Clerk of the Court. Once the Petition is filed, that starts the time clock to collect signatures. The law to change the DRY county status was enacted in 1933, so the benchmark set at that time was very high. Twenty-five percent of the registered voters' signatures must be collected. As of today, Madison County has 11,604 registered voters. 25% of 11,604 is 2,895 signatures. Our target is 3,200 signatures.

To change the DRY county status, the law requires 25% of the registered voters in the county to sign a petition that has been first filed with the Clerk of the Court. In other elections, the signature requirement to place a candidate on the ballot is far less demanding.

  • A candidate for a special district only needs 17-29 signatures.
  • A candidate for county Commission only needs 17-29 signatures.
  • A candidate for countywide office only needs 115 signatures.
  • BUT, a petition to change the DRY county status requires OVER 2,900 signatures!

AND you only have 120 days to collect all of those signatures, validate the signatures, and present the Petition to the county Commission to set the election.

Once the election is set, the voter will first vote to allow the sale of wine and intoxicating liquors. Then the voter will select the method of sale. The two options are (1) by package only or (2) by package and by drink. The proponents of this referendum support by package and by drink. Limiting the retail component will not enhance economic development opportunities in Madison County.

Will changing the DRY county status be the only solution to build our economy?

There is no single solution to turn around our nation's struggling economy, but changing the DRY county status will serve as a catalyst for new businesses and new jobs in many employment sectors. In Madison County, because of the lack of upscale and national chain restaurants, suitable lodging, adequate meeting space, entertainment and goods and supplies businesses and industries not directly connected to alcohol are reluctant to locate here. Changing the DRY county status will bring these amenities, facilities and services to Madison County and will serve to attract new business once we adopt a business-friendly climate. Attracting new industries to our county will create jobs.

When will the election be held?

The Special Election will be held August 28, 2012, however, you can vote before then beginning July 16 by completing an In-Office Absentee Ballot at the Supervisor of Elections NEW office (239 SW Pinckney Street, Madison Fl 32340) or you can request an Absentee Ballot be mailed to you. Make your request in person, by mail, phone (850-973-6507), or online at www.votemadison.com by clicking “Request a Mail Ballot”.

“Early Voting” is Monday, Aug 20 thru Friday Aug 24, from 9:00 AM to 5:30 PM. Cast your vote early at the Supervisor of Elections office (listed above), at the Lee City Hall, 286 NE CR 255, Lee, Fl 32059 or at the Senior Citizens Building , 166 SW Onslow Street, Greenville, Fl 32331.

All precincts will be open from 7:00 AM to 7:00 PM on August 28, 2012.

When will the petition drive begin?

The petition drive began February 15, 2012, and ended successfully on June 4, 2012, a full 23 days ahead of schedule. On that date, Chairman Ted Ensminger presented petitions from more than 25% of Madison County’s registered voters to the County Commission asking for the right to vote on the issue. The County Commission then ordered the Special Election to be held August 28, 2012.

Is it true that DUI's will increase when Madison County is WET?

No, in fact when Santa Rosa county voted to go wet in 2005 DUI's DECREASED. Three years prior to the election, Santa Rosa averaged 340 DUI's per month. In the three years following the election, Santa Rosa's DUI's averaged 254 per month, a 25% decrease in DUI's. This occurred during a time when the population increased by 15%.

In Madison County, our current rate of alcohol related accidents is nearly DOUBLE the statewide average for WET counties. By remaining DRY we have a public safety issue.

Is it true that when we go WET there will be a club or a bar at every corner?

No, the number of bars and package stores would be limited by population. Bars and package stores require a quota license. Quota licenses are based on population. One license is issued for each 7,500 residents. So our best estimates are that Madison County will receive 2 new licenses. Quota licenses are NOT pre-determined who will receive them. County Commissioners NO LONGER select licensees. Licenses will be issued by a lottery. Any person over the age of 21 can enter the lottery once they complete an application and pay the application fee. The number of individuals applying for the license is unlimited. However, an individual may only enter the lottery one time.

Licenses to sell wine and beer are not limited by population as the quota licenses are, so restaurants that derive more than 51% of their revenue from food sales; have seating available for 150 or more persons; and who have 2,500 square feet may obtain a special license to sell beer, wine, and liquor for consumption on premises.

Hotels, convention facilities, bowling alleys and golf and country clubs may also sell liquor if they meet the licensing criteria and once they obtain the appropriate license.

Will going WET cause more people to use alcohol?

We believe that responsible adults will be responsible with alcohol, as are many of us who are also responsible with our firearms. We trust this to be true especially about Madison County residents. More importantly, let us not forget people living here can already drink alcohol now if they wish. They buy alcohol and drink alcohol in the next county and spend their tax dollars there, then drive home to Madison County, possibly impaired.The question isn't whether or not going WET will cause more people to use alcohol. The real question is who will get the profits, license fees, taxes, jobs and other economic benefits? Until we go WET, it won't be us.

HOW YOU CAN HELP

We’ve won the right to vote, but we need every citizen’s vote to bring about a successful result. MadisonYES! needs volunteers to call registered voters to remind them to request Absentee Ballots and to vote, administrative help familiar with Excel, clerical help to look up telephone numbers and those all-important cash contributions to take us to the triumphant end of this campaign.

To volunteer or donate, contact MadisonYES! Headquarters at 850-973-4yes (937), or write us at yes@madisonyes.com.