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    Oklahoma "Beer" Bill Signed

    Fee hike affecting convenience stores will take effect July 1.

    OKLAHOMA CITY -- Beer retailers in Oklahoma will pay $100 more for a three-year license under a bill signed into law by Gov. Brad Henry this week.

    Henry signed House Bill 1106, which increases the license fees for convenience stores and other retailers of low-point beer. The cost of a three-year license will be increased by $100 until 2006, when the fee hike will jump to $200.

    The revenue raised from the measure -- which proponents say will be nearly $1 million annually when fully implemented -- is earmarked for drug and alcohol treatment and will be overseen by the Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services (DMHSAS), according to the Associated Press.

    Under the bill, fees for convenience stores and supermarkets will increase from $30 for a three-year license to $130 until 2006, after which the fee will increase to $230. Similar increases are outlined for restaurants, taverns and other retailers of low-point beer. The fee for convenience stores was established in 1939 and has not been increased since. However, despite the relatively low license fee, the industry waged a fierce battle against the measure.

    "There was a lot of resistance, not just within my caucus as far as some of those who are really opposed to fee or tax hikes, but also the convenience store retailers," said the bills sponsor, Thad Balkman (R-Norman). "The way I was able to get some votes from some of my friends in the House was to distinguish that it was a user fee. And I think trying to prevent drug abuse and substance abuse is really not a partisan issue."

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