Majority Whip Cecil Staton, R-Macon, said he hoped to finish by late today a count of Senate Republican for and against SB 10, the measure to permit the package sale of alcohol on Sundays.
The whip count was ordered by Senate President pro tem Tommie Williams, R-Lyons, and Majority Leader Chip Rogers, R-Woodstock, Staton said.
But after the confidential count, there’s still no guarantee that the bill – stalled by a sudden surge of conservative Christian protest, and possibly some behind-the-scenes liquor interests – will emerge from the Senate Rules Committee and be sent to the floor.
“That will be the basis upon which there will be further discussion of what to do,” Staton said.
In one of several interviews conducted by my AJC colleague Christopher Quinn, Staton said he personally favors the bill. “If the vote was held today, I would probably vote for it. I’m a big believer in local control,” he said.
Rogers, the majority leader and second-signer on SB 10, simply said, “The opposition in my district is almost non-existent.”
But the hour-plus caucus meeting intended to hash out the issue appears to have generated a fresh argument against the Sunday sales bill – that the state has no business delegating its authority over alcohol sales to local governments.
Said state Sen. Mitch Seabaugh, R-Sharpsburg, who opposes the bill:
”Unfortunately, a lot of times we use allowing local control to punt a difficult issue down the road. ….When you read the [state] constitution, we are – at the state Legislature – supposed to have the task of regulating alcohol sales. We should make that decision, I believe, one way or the other, for the entire state.
“Using the cover of local control is taking a step toward being a referendum state. I don’t believe that that’s in the best interest of our state.”
Barry Loudermilk, R-Cassville, is a freshman Senator and former House member. He declared himself to be undecided, but appeared to be leaning toward Seabaugh’s argument.
“I do have an Anheuser-Busch plant in my district, so there is some interest there,” Loudermilk conceded.
On the other hand, the senator said, he didn’t want Georgia to end up like California.
- By Jim Galloway, Political Insider