- Associated Press - Tuesday, February 2, 2016

PHOENIX (AP) - Republican lawmakers have proposed allowing convenience stores to sell liquor within 300 feet of schools or churches.

Rep. T.J. Shope of Coolidge sponsored the bill that would permit a store to get a liquor license by meeting requirements that include selling fresh produce and proving that it gets less than 50 percent of its revenue from hard liquor. It must also be at least 4,500 square feet.

Mike Williams, who lobbies for the Circle K chain, said the measure is necessary because an increasing number of daycare centers and churches are opening in strip malls.

Convenience stores that are looking to renovate or move to larger locations have difficulty applying for and renewing their liquor licenses as a result, he said.

Activists say they are concerned the measure would invite unscrupulous behavior near schools and churches. Phoenix resident Walt Gray said he is also worried about the effects of alcohol advertising on children.

“When you are talking about vulnerable communities like the one I am from, that is very bad,” he said.

The city of Phoenix opposed the bill, saying it has concerns about the wording, especially when it comes to reviewing a business’s financial records and understanding what counts as fresh produce.

“Does that mean you just have limes in the store? Does that qualify as fresh produce?” John Wayne Gonzales, who lobbies for the city, asked the House Committee on Rural and Economic Development.

The committee passed House Bill 2372 on a 5-3 vote Tuesday. It now undergoes a standard review before going to a full House vote.

A similar bill died in the House last session.

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