Understanding the 21-ordinance

BY DI STAFF | MARCH 24, 2010 7:30 AM

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Different year, same issue.

Though the 21-ordinance was voted down by the public in 2007, the Iowa City City Council is revisiting it. The ordinance could be approved within weeks and take effect by June.

The Daily Iowan clarifies some questions about the issue’s resurgence.

Why is the City Council bringing up the 21-ordinance now?

A new mayor and councilors, support from the University of Iowa, and failed efforts to curb underage drinking are major factors councilors have cited for raising the issue again.

After the public vote in 2007, councilors decided to give downtown bars some time to control underage drinkers in their establishments. Since then, the majority of the councilors say, they haven’t seen a change in the bars’ efforts, which has forced them to take control of the situation.

Is the City Council allowed to vote on the 21-ordinance again after the public voted against it in 2007?

Yes, the City Council is only restricted from revisiting an issue for two years if a successful initiative or referendum has occurred, according to the City Charter section 7.01.

Because the vote to raise the bar-entry age to 21 failed in 2007, it is considered to be an unsuccessful initiative. Councilors have not had any time restrictions on reconsidering this issue.

If the bar entry age changes to 21, can it ever revert back to a younger age?

Yes. Currently, 21-ordinance opponents are petitioning for an initiative that would lower the bar-entry age to 18. If they collect 2,500 signatures from people who are registered to vote in Johnson County by May 7, the City Council will have to act on the initiative or place it on the Nov. 2 ballot.

If the City Council enacts the ordinance, and it takes effect on June 1, it could be on the November ballot with enough signatures. In the election, the bar-entry age could be lowered again with a majority vote.

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