A number of contentious bills did not make it to the Georgia Senate floor last week, signaling the end of their run in this year’s legislative session.
As the deadline day for bills to pass in either the House or the Senate —”crossover day” — approached, members of the Senate Rules Committee opted to remove legislation unlikely to pass in the chamber from Tuesday’s floor debate.
One of the first bills scrapped from the rules calendar was Senate Bill 138, which would have given local communities the option of voting to allow retail sales of beer, wine and liquor on Sundays.
Rules Committee Chairman Don Balfour (R-Snellville), one of the few senators to support the bill, said SB 138 did not have enough votes to warrant a debate.
According to Senate President Pro Tempore Eric Johnson (R-Savannah), the measure was “a member of the walking dead” when Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue implied in January he would veto any bill proposing Sunday alcohol sales.
“At that point, why would you put the General Assembly through the debate?” he asked.
Conservative Christian groups and storeowners opposed to opening on Sundays commended the Senate’s decision, while lobbyists for the convenience and grocery store industry called SB 138 “a long shot” from the beginning.
Hinesville convenience store and repair shop owner Joe McCartney said the bill would not affect his business at all.
“I haven’t sold alcohol here in about 15 years,” the Joe’s Service Center owner said. “It was too much of a hassle and there wasn’t that much profit in it...not for me at least.”
The bill may be resurrected during next year’s session, but does not have a much better outlook.
Perdue’s term does not end until 2011 and with all 236 legislators up for re-election in 2008, lawmakers are likely to avoid touchy issues that may affect their campaigns.
Georgia is one of only three states with a complete ban on alcohol sales at stores on Sundays. However, polls indicate many Georgians are in favor of Sunday alcohol sales.
In an Atlanta-Journal Constitution Mason-Dixon Polling and Research poll earlier this year, 68 percent of Georgians statewide and 80 percent of metro Atlantans said they supported alcohol sales on Sundays.
Confederate History Month
Senate lawmakers also decided not to move forward with a measure that would have created Confederate History and Heritage Month in Georgia.
SB 283 passed the Rules Committee without opposition, but with controversy brewing between the bill and a slavery apology resolution being prepared by Rep. Al Williams (D-Midway) in the House, senators concluded the measure was not worth the lengthy debate it would generate.
The bill, sponsored by Sen. Jeff Mullis (R-Chickamauga), would have encouraged Georgians to honor the Confederacy, its history, soldiers and the “millions of its citizens of various races and ethnic groups and religions who contributed ... to the cause of Southern Independence” each April.