Senate starts surprise debate on Sunday alcohol sales — kills the idea, for now

A surprise push for Sunday alcohol sales in Georgia met opposition during a debate on the Senate floor Monday and was killed for the time being. 

A bill dealing with other aspects of alcohol sales, including selling beer on Sunday at the new Gwinnett Stadium, became a big deal Monday when one senator added an amendment to allow for a vote on Sunday alcohol sales in localities across Georgia. 

Sen. Seth Harp (R-Midland) argued for his Sunday alcohol sales amendment, saying, “It’s time. It’s time. It’s time.” 

After lengthy debate, and much parliamentary maneuvering, Harp’s proposal to allow Sunday sales in Georgia was gutted by another amendment. 

It is unlikely the statewide Sunday sales proposal will surface again this session, said Sen. Don Balfour (R-Snellville).

The underlying legislation, House Bill 115, would have allowed a county, in certain circumstances, to issue a liquor license for Sunday sales. The intent was to pave the way for beer at Sunday games at Gwinnett’s ball park, home to the Gwinnett Braves. 

That bill was put aside, or tabled, by a vote of 37 to 18 on Monday. 

Gwinnett officials said even though the state law did not pass the Legislature today, fans will still be able to buy beer at the stadium during opening weekend next month. Gwinnett County’s top licensing official, David O’Kelley, said he’ll issue a liquor license under a county law that allows Sunday sales at businesses where food accounts for more than 50 percent of annual sales. 

“We’re sitting on the license and we can go at any time,” O’Kelley said. 

Many senators voted against the Gwinnett Stadium bill because another amendment made the bill untenable. 

Sen. Dan Moody (R-Alpharetta), proposed an amendment which would have suspended an establishment’s liquor license for two years if it sold alcohol to a minor one time. That would put many companies out of business after one mistake, Harp said.  

Moody’s amendment also removed Harp’s Sunday sales amendment entirely. 

The severe measure of taking away a liquor license for two years for one mistake was too strict for most senators to support.

That is why the Gwinnett Stadium bill was tabled. 

“He gave it a poison pill that nobody could swallow,” Balfour said of Moody’s amendment. 

The point of Moody’s amendment was two-fold. He intended to kill Harp’s Sunday sales bill while avoiding an on-the-record vote directly on the topic. Instead, the amendment called for a vote about punishment of underage alcohol sales. 

The result is that the proposal for statewide Sunday sales was tabled and no fingerprints were left behind.

Staff writer Michael Pearson contributed to this report.

11 comments Add your comment

Jason

March 30th, 2009
4:18 pm

We can’t buy alcohol on Sundays, but pickup drivers don’t have to wear seat belts. What’s wrong with this picture? We really need to start paying our legislators more so we can attract people with at least half a brain to run for office. If we keep putting crappy people in office, expect to get crap back out in the form of our laws.

Ryan

March 30th, 2009
6:22 pm

I can’t buy alcohol on Sundays at retails, but I can have as much as I want at restaurants. This has nothing to do with religion. It has to be something else since lawmakers are not so religious. For example, Bush who used religion as his political advancement.

Bryant

March 30th, 2009
7:36 pm

Jesus H. Christ, when will our elected officials get a freaking clue???? I swear, the people in the Gold Dome seem content with keeping this state stuck in the past. It really bothers me that the people who run this state can be bullied by the religious right and groups such as the Christian Coalition. Seriously, do these people think that there’s going to be an exponential increase in sin if alcohol is sold on Sundays? Do they think that Armageddon is going to happen if Georgia residents are allowed to run to the local gas station to pick up a 12 pack for the game? All they’re doing is running a campaign of fear in an attempt to get people to believe in what they believe in, but their argument has no logic at all. Tell me, what’s the difference in buying alcohol at a restaurant and buying it from a store to consume in the privacy of your own home?

I really really hope that the next election will result in some competent, forward thinking people in office who will finally bring this state out of the dark ages.

Sonny DO

March 30th, 2009
9:16 pm

Looks like this issue is “moving forward” again. I won’t let it pass. It is Too logical. The church must have “governance”.

Ralph

March 31st, 2009
9:01 am

Vote out anyone in office that votes no or tries to stop Sunday sales.
We have the power. Power to the people. Free at last. We will over come
this backwoods, live in the dark way of thinking.

Jennifer

March 31st, 2009
11:32 am

Amazing. Apparently those that are voted into office believe that while the citizens of Georgia are bright enought to vote, pay taxes, serve our military and generally be otherwise upstanding citizens – we are not, I’m sad to say bright enough to decide that we’d like to have unplanned glass of wine with dinner at home on Sunday. Why not just put this up for popular vote?

professional skeptic

March 31st, 2009
2:03 pm

Take a hard look, people of Georgia. This is exactly what we get when we elect a bunch of backwoods, slack-jawed yokels to run our legislature. Or a rural veterinarian to the office of governor, or a man who didn’t bother to finish his college degree to the office of Lt. Governor.

Ideology will reign supreme and vital issues will fall by the wayside. They’ll give us highways to nowhere and build fishin’ holes all over the state, but we won’t have adequate transportation development in our metropolitan areas, which collectively serve as the state’s economic engine.

We need to WAKE UP AND THINK, people, before we vote next time!

PMC

March 31st, 2009
3:53 pm

So the state representatives are running shine now? What possible plausible reason could one have to issue a liscense for 6 days a week but not the 7th.

There is none, there is nothing logical to our blue laws. They are outdated and should be stricken from the record. They serve no worthy purpose.

[...] Monday, state Sen. Seth Harp, R-Midland, tried to revive a bill that would allow cities and counties to vote whether they wanted to purchase [...]

Mike

April 2nd, 2009
8:46 am

Just another sign that rural backwoods Georgia runs the state.

Only problem? Half of Georgians live around Atlanta. Almost all the money in the state comes from the city.

This dominance of civilization by worthless good ol’ boys not only is not fair to the upper half of citizens living in real places such as Atlanta, Athens, and Savannah, but it drives business out of the state. Georgia is a national joke for things like having no alcohol on sundays, being the #1 state for people under Dep’t of Corrections, not having respectable public transit, and having do-nothing state government that can’t even secure a water supply for its population.

But, hey, at least we are #1 in the nation for megachurches! I bet we are also #1 for police hired by private enterprise (including churches) to redirect traffic against DoT plans.

william

June 25th, 2010
7:16 pm

Some of you are lucky. The religious morons here in Thomas county won’t allow any Sunday alcohol sales. Even the national restaurants in town can’t serve a glass of wine or beer with dinner. As if it’s anyone’s damn business but my own. When I buy a 25 steak dinner, I’d like a nice glass of wine, and it just chaps my shorts that some holy roller moron can decide I can’t do it. Maybe we should write our own referendum than says churches have to be closed on Sunday, as we don’t want to be awakened by those stupid bells.