House gives final passage to Sunday alcohol sales bill

Photo by Mckenzie Martin

Photo by Mckenzie Martin

ATLANTA - Gov. Nathan Deal has already said he will sign Senate Bill 10, which the House approved Tuesday by a vote of 127-44. The measure had earlier passed the Senate after being stalled there since early 2007.

The legislation would allow city councils and county commissions to call for referendums on Sunday alcohol sales at stores. Voters could see it on ballots as early as November in cities with elections. They will likely have to wait until next year in counties and cities without 2011 elections.

That means some parts of metro Atlanta could have Sunday sales by next year while others won't.

Georgia is one of only three states with a complete ban on Sunday alcohol sales at stores. Georgians can already buy beer, wine and liquor at restaurants and bars on Sunday in many locations.

"This is about fairness. It's not about religion, it's not about drinking," said House Regulated Industries Chairman Roger Williams, R-Dalton, who handled the bill in the chamber.

During debate on the bill, Rep. Joe Heckstall, D-East Point, said: "It's good to see Georgia is joining the 21st century. ... We are in the Dark Ages if we don't think people are going to drink. I want us to get away from the hypocrisy.I want to set people free to do what they want to do."

But religious conservatives fought the latest Sunday sales bill hard, arguing that it was an attempt to chip away at the Christian Sabbath.They also said it would lead to an increase in alcohol-related traffic deaths.

Former Gov. Sonny Perdue, a religious conservative, was a leading opponent and long promised to veto Sunday sales legislation. When he left office in January, it gave new life to supporters.