By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
Sunday alcohol sales likely dead for now
Rogers: Not enough support to move forward; look to more important issues
Alcohol image for web

On the Net

Senate Bill 10:

ATLANTA - After a fast start and little initial opposition, the issue of Sunday liquor sales is likely dead for this year's Georgia legislative session.

Senate Majority Leader Chip Rogers said Thursday the Republican caucus decided that there was just not the support to move forward.

"We're moving on to other issues that are more important, like the budget, like the HOPE scholarship, like immigration," said Rogers, who is also a co-sponsor of the bill. "We took a vote and the majority of our members were just overwhelmingly against it."

When asked about what should happen with Senate Bill 10, Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle said it was the majority leader's decision.

"This is a very delicate issue," Cagle said. "When you ultimately allow the caucus to decide, it doesn't provide the sort of transparency in government that the citizens are really looking for. Committee meetings where votes are taken are open to the public. This is a little bit of a change in direction."

Georgia is one of only three states that still forbids stores from selling alcohol on the Sabbath. Senate Bill 10 would let voters decide in local referendums whether they want the sales between 12:30 p.m. and 11:30 p.m. and could put the issue on the ballot as soon as this fall.

After breezing through committees with no opposition from Christian conservatives or liquor sales groups, the proposal seemed headed for a vote in the Legislature after years of stonewalling by former Gov. Sonny Perdue. An early signal that the bill might have a chance this session was newly elected Gov. Nathan Deal's support for a local option proposal.

On Thursday, Deal avoided getting into the fray.

"I do not interfere with the internal politics of the General Assembly," he said. "I think that's their decision to make."

House Speaker David Ralston also steered clear of the Senate debate but did weigh in on the legislation. A similar proposal is under consideration in the House.

"It's not really Sunday sales if what you believe in is local control," Ralston said. "That said, if you put that in the ballot in Fannin County, I'd vote no."

Many lawmakers touted the issue - which would offer municipalities the option of putting the question to citizens - as one for voters, not values.

Supporters said it was unfair that grocery and liquor stores were forced to shelve their alcohol on Sundays, while restaurants and stadiums could serve beer, wine and spirits. Others complained that Georgia's businesses near the state line are losing to their counterparts in neighboring states that allow Sunday sales.

Opposition groups initially vowed to fight the issue locally, but soon returned to the Gold Dome, pressuring lawmakers to kill the bill before it hit Georgia communities.

Neither side was willing to give concede defeat Thursday.

"It is still very early in the session and we are confident that the Georgia state Senate will choose to let their constituents' voices be heard," said Kathy Kuzava, president of the Georgia Food Industry Association.

Georgia Christian Coalition President Jerry Luquire said he also doesn't consider the issue dead.

"We just know it's on life support," Luquire said.

There are 24 days left in the 2011 legislative session.

Associated Press writer Shannon McCaffrey contributed to this story.


Sign up for the Herald's free e-newsletter