Alcohol bill splits local lawmakers

Alcohol bill splits local lawmakers

April 14th, 2011 by Andy Johns in News

Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal speaks to reporters following a news conference at the state Capitol on Wednesday in Atlanta. Deal says he'll sign a bill allowing voters to decide whether to allow Sunday alcohol sales but said if it comes up for a vote in his community, he'll vote against it. (AP Photo/David Goldman)

HOW THEY VOTED

Here's how area Georgia lawmakers voted on a bill to allow local votes on Sunday alcohol sales:

YES

John Meadows, R-Calhoun

Martin Scott, R-Rossville

Roger Williams, R-Dalton

Tom Dickson, R-Cohutta

NO

Jay Neal, R-LaFayette

Rick Jasperse, R-Jasper

Tom Weldon, R-Ringgold

Barbara Massey Reece, D-Menlo

Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal said Wednesday he will sign into law a recently passed bill paving the way for Sunday alcohol sales statewide.

But he said he would vote against Sunday sales in his own community. Deal is from Gainesville.

Likewise, Northwest Georgia House members, who often vote together on issues, split on the bill - four in support and four against.

The bill to allow local votes over whether to sell beer, wine and liquor in stores on Sunday passed the House 127 to 44.

Among the opponents was Rick Jasperse, R-Jasper, who said he represents an area where people have "respect for Sunday."

"I think you have to look at where you're from and see what your people say they want," Jasperse said. "It's not anti-business; it's just one of these cultural pride things."

Georgia now is among just three states that ban Sunday alcohol sales in stores.

Jasperse, a freshman, said he sits between Tom Dickson, R-Cohutta, and Roger Williams, R-Dalton, who have vocally supported Sunday sales.

Williams said he has been working to get the bill passed for at least four years. He said it will help merchants, especially in Whitfield and Catoosa counties, where folks can go into neighboring Tennessee and buy beer on Sunday.

In Tennessee, wine and liquor are sold only in liquor stores, which are closed on Sunday. In Georgia, beer and wine are sold in grocery stores.

Williams said the bill is about local control.

"This bill is only a vehicle. It does nothing until acted on as a referendum," Williams said. "You're letting your people vote on it; it's not about whether you drink."

Dalton Mayor David Pennington has vowed to put the referendum on the ballot at the earliest opportunity, but other civic leaders may not be as eager.

Rep. Barbara Massey Reece, D-Menlo, said she voted against the bill because she believes most of her constituents oppose it.

"I think it comes back to your religious beliefs," she said. And while she agrees with Jasperse that local control is important, "we don't do local control on everything we consider."

Williams said he's not sure exactly how much the Sunday sales would help merchants.

"I don't know that it will be a great big boost," but "it'll be a benefit for us," he said.

Staff writer Joy Lukachick and The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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