Headed For Speedy Passage Last Week, Sunday Sales Bill Now Appears Dead For Session

Today’s column from the Courier Herald.  Yes, I realize you may be feeling there’s a bit of overkill with the Sunday Sales posts today.  No, it’s not the only issue we care about around here.  But it is one where perhaps the amount of double talk, false support, and lack of intestinal fortitude seems to waste a good 10-15 days per session of the general assembly, only to vaporize into an effort of futility.  It’s time to quit wasting time with this issue.  It’s time for a recorded vote.

It was just last Monday that I wrote that the battle over Sunday sales of alcohol was over before it began, and that the Christian Coalition had decided it had been outflanked, while the Chamber of Commerce was putting on a full court press to gain the bill’s passage.  One week later, as is often the case in politics, the bill now appears to be dead for the session.

The bill, officially known as SB 10, does not in and of itself make alcohol sales from liquor, convenience and grocery stores legal on Sunday.  It legalizes a process that would allow local governments to determine if they wanted to put before their citizens a vote to determine if local community standards supported expanded alcohol sales.  Supporters have positioned the bill as a vote for local control.  Opponents have fought the bill as an abomination.

While newly elected Governor Deal had indicated he – a non drinker – would sign the bill, it appears that some severe miscalculations and a lack of intestinal fortitude among some senior Senators have again doomed the bill to another year in committee, far away from a floor vote that would put Senators on record as to whether they actually support this bill or not.

Most Senators privately claim that they are for this bill, but they also fear a backlash of social conservative voters, who are believed to be more “single issue” in nature when arriving at the polls.  And thus, Senators this year seemed to devise a plan that would put the burden of passing this legislation on the record crop of freshmen legislators.  The more senior Senators would thus be spared the unpleasant backlash as they continue to prepare to move up various political ladders. 

The bill this year was assigned not to the Regulated Industries committee, where it has been dutifully kept from the floor the past two sessions.  Instead, it was assigned to the obscure SLoGo Committee, which oversees State and Local Government issues, and is- probably not coincidentally – chaired by a freshman Senator, Butch Miller.  The bill was passed out of the committee, but not with some of the technical corrections recommended which became obviously apparent as needed as it headed to the Rules Committee.  With the bill needing to go back to SLoGo, the Christian Coalition and other social conservative groups had time to crank up their phone banks, and began asking the freshmen why they were supporting a bill that more seasoned Senators were less committal on.  Freshmen started to feel like they were being had, and support for the bill began to vaporize.

Further compounding the problem is the continuing leadership vacuum in the Senate.  With Casey Cagle stripped of power, there is no single person for the Governor or Speaker of the House to negotiate with.  In an interview with the Atlanta Journal Constitution’s James Salazar, Majority Leader Chip Rogers said of a “gentleman’s agreement” with the House that the Senate would vote first that he “wasn’t a party to that meeting” and then went on to disavow almost any knowledge of how any Republican Senator felt about this bill.  There is, clearly and simply, too much of a leadership vacuum in the Senate for a bill with this level of controversy to pass at this time.

In the grand scheme of things, Sunday alcohol sales is not in the top 100 problems facing the State of Georgia.  Yet, session after session of the General Assembly continues to be dominated by backroom dramas as this bill is trotted out, given hearings and even an occasional committee vote, only to be buried again for another year.

It is time for the Senate and House to move on from this issue.  The bill should be brought to a full recorded vote.  It’s what real leaders would do.

53 comments

  1. I have remained silent on this issue long enough. Time for a good rant.

    (1) Stop blaming “Harry” or The Christian Coalition, or “social conservatives” for the fact that this bill is going nowhere. Whether you like it or not, people like Harry (and other like-minded individuals) have a right to petition their elected officials the same as everyone else, and I will defend to the death their right to do so.

    (2) If you want to blame someone, blame the chickensh!t State Senators, as Jason recommended. They’re the elected officials who are suppose to serve as leaders. They’re paid to make the decisions. 100% of the blame (for the success or failure of this bill) rests on the elected Representatives and Senators…not Harry, not the Christian Coalition, not the flying spaghetti monster.

    (3) If you’re looking for someone specifically to blame, look no further than everyone’s favorite “liberty loving” Senator, Sen. David Shafer. Of all of the chickensh!t cowards in the State Senate, he is the ringleader. He has purposely avoided this issue like the plague and is now, behind closed doors, actively working to defeat it–because he doesn’t want this vote on his record when he runs for Lt. Governor. He is the primary reason that the Senate hasn’t brought the bill to the floor. If you want to call someone out, call him out.

    (4) Peach Pundit has been in Shafer’s corner for far too long. If you guys want to make a difference, then you have to be consistent. If this was Nathan Deal blocking the bill, you’d better believe there would be about 10 front page posts calling Deal everything but a good man. What’s going to happen now that it’s Shafer blocking the bill? Crickets?

      • KD_fiscal conservative says:

        Yes, Harry and others DO have the same right as everyone else to petition elected leaders, but their opinions, or those of the liquor stores shouldn’t be weighted more heavily than that of anyone else, and that is precisely what is happening. Polls show the VAST MAJORITY of Georgians want local control, but still the Senate is playing dumb. This happens all the time in politics, and is a almost violation of the 14th amendment, one person, one vote has long been ignored. Special interests will always prevail.

          • KD_fiscal conservative says:

            Yeah, I was thinking the same thing. But this is one of those things that the majority of Georgians, dems, libs and cons, should be able to come together on. For some reason the “social cons”, who aren’t conservative more theocrats, are getting their way in the state.

      • A Fly on the Wall says:

        When you call David, be sure to ask if Richard Tucker has called him today to give him his marching orders. You have to give Shafer credit. He get’s to talk out of both sides of his mouth, oppose legislation that his district would readily approve so that he can cater to the liquor store in his district (Tucker) and nobody calls him on it. I we all thought Reagan was the teflon man.

  2. griftdrift says:

    Sorry. My sympathy door closed long ago. Of course “Harry” and all the other prohibitionists have a right to petition their government. Being a loon in no way strips one of that right – guaranteed in the Constitution by the way. And I don’t see anyone arguing it should.

    However, the leadership of the Republican Party, for obvious political and electoral reasons, made their arrangements with this peculiar special interest group some time ago.

    Blame on all or blame on none.

    Otherwise you are in the amusing situation Erick now finds himself – mildly proclaiming love for liberty while never actually noting that his dear friends in that peculiar special interest group are primarily responsible.

    • griftdrift,

      We all know that you hate that people like Erick have more “sway” with the elected officials than people like you. No one is arguing that. But it’s not Erick’s fault, or “Harry’s” fault, or the Christian Coalition’s fault that they have that impact. They only have power because elected officials give it to them. Elected officials are the ones that quake at the thought of getting a “D” on the Christian Coalition scorecard. Hell, the CC is just standing up for a cause…whether you or I agree with it or not. It’s the elected officials who legitimize the cause by basing their entire legislative careers off of it.

      So, no. I do not blame the Christian Coaltion for this. I blame the chickensh!t legislators, who are 100% responsible.

      • griftdrift says:

        “It’s the elected officials who legitimize the cause by basing their entire legislative careers off of it.”

        That’s pretty much what I said. Except I don’t pull the veil over my eyes and refuse to acknowledge the fact that they have kowtowed to that particular special interest group to the point that the interest group has subsumed the representatives.

        Maybe that’s why I don’t have such “sway. Guess I’ll just have to continue to wallow in my jealously.

        • Except I don’t pull the veil over my eyes and refuse to acknowledge the fact that they have kowtowed to that particular special interest group to the point that the interest group has subsumed the representatives.

          That’s fair, but even then the ultimate responsibility rests with the elected officials.

          So…in that case, maybe it rests with the “people”, or at least the aggregate of people who actually voted them in.

        • Gerald says:

          First of all, they haven’t kowtowed to social conservatives, because they never fight for or enact any legislation that is actually socially conservative. If they had, they would have earned enough political points with that crowd to be able to get away with letting something like this slip by. But since they haven’t, they have no choice.

          Second, without social conservatives, no GOPer could so much as win a county commissioner race in this state, let alone a race that actually matters. Maybe the social conservatives in Georgia need to sit out a couple of election cycles – or go back to voting for the Jimmy Carter/Zell Miller Democrats like they were not so long ago – and see how the rest of you guys in the GOP like going back to how it was just a few years ago, when there were so few GOP elected officials in this state that you could have held the state convention in a motel lobby.

    • gagenx says:

      The some time ago’s are still kicking looks like!

      It’s always the opposition’s voice usually heard the loudest.

  3. LukeSkywalkersTauntaun says:

    Yep, this is why the country is so fed up with Washington. Ultimately the politicians are more worried about whether they’re going to get re-elected or not than what their constituents want. Here we have part time legislators so worried about their so-called “jobs” that they don’t even have the backbone to address this (non) issue. Lord help us (no pun intended) if they are ever called upon to tackle a REAL problem.

  4. Gerald says:

    The real problem is that Republicans are more than willing to take social conservatives’ votes, but don’t do squat to advance their agenda. Republicans – again with social conservatives making up a large percentage of the votes – took power in 2002, and not a single social conservative bill has passed in all that time. Not only do the social conservatives vote for Republicans, but they are a huge part of the party machinery … they send tons of volunteers and raise a boatload of money to get the GOPers elected.

    And for what? No social conservative legislation gets enacted, and further no social conservative activist is in the major offices (governor, lieutenant governor, U.S. senator, state senate majority leader or house speaker, Georgia GOP chairman). So, you think that these folks should keep spending long hours volunteering and raising money and also voting for a state GOP that does not advance their interests, will not tolerate them in leadership, enacts laws that they oppose, and oh yeah can be counted on for major ethics/scandals issues on a regular basis? Why?

    If the state GOP had actually passed some – or ANY – of the social conservative agenda, then social conservative leaders and voters would be able to justify looking the other way on this Sunday sales thing. But things being what they are, what else are these folks supposed to do? If the state actually becomes more socially liberal – excuse me, libertarian – under the watch of the guys that you helped put in power, then you are better off withdrawing your support and letting the OPENLY liberal Democrats take power. At least that way, you can play defense.

    What is happening to this Sunday sales bill is no different from the fate of DOZENS of socially conservative bills through the years, some of whom were actually good policy and not just marginal wedge issue stuff. Look, if you guys don’t want to be in coalition with the social conservative crowd, then either A) start telling them that their money, volunteer network and VOTES aren’t welcome or B) go join up with the Libertarians. But please stop expecting social conservatives to get you guys elected year after year for absolutely nothing – indeed less than nothing – in return.

    • HCL3 says:

      First, social conservatism is not conservatism – it’s just another way for government to tell people how to live their private lives – aka authoritarianism.

      Social conservatives are a dying constituancy. Fiscal conservatism combined with a moderate to liberal social policy is the future in this state and the country as a whole. I look forward to the day when we are done with your bigoted and theocratic beliefs for good.

    • Three Jack says:

      gerald,

      come on…your agenda has been promoted in every session since the gop took over led by a radical socon governor. you got the anti-gay marriage amendment, parental notificiation for abortion and other restrictions on personal freedom since 2002. your groups have also pressured legislators into not passing sunday sales, legalized gambling and other revenue generating bills. socons get most of what they want which is a major problem for the gop and citizens of ga.

      • KD_fiscal conservative says:

        I actually agree with jack …..wow…surprising…

        “socons get most of what they want, which is a major problem for the gop ”

        I’ve always been saying this. The majority of people don’t really care all that much about such issues. And some people can’t stand the hate mongering(gay-baiting…etc) done by R legislators, so caving to that wing on every single issue, especially when it effects state revenue is just stupid.

  5. SFCWallace says:

    You can be against an issue, and for the people’s right to decide the same…they are not mutually exclusive events…

    • Doug Deal says:

      SFCWallace,

      You are assuming facts not in evidence. That people who proclaim to believe in freedom actually support that right in others and not just freedom to do things they approve of.

  6. Dave says:

    Individual liberties and freedom died this session. If that is a bother to any of you then vote the cowards out in 2012.

  7. Toxic Avenger says:

    Just for the record, the Democrats are near unanimously (I only say near because I have not personally seen the whip sheet) in favor of Sunday Sales. Just want to make sure that’s perfectly clear to everyone.

    • Three Jack says:

      because democrats are evil, godless heathens hellbent on destroying the social fabric of america.

      did i get that correct harry and gerald?

      • LoyaltyIsMyHonor says:

        Vincent Fort is opposed too. But the Dems aren’t going to show their cards. Like the Hospital Bed Tax bill, they’ll sit back and see if the Majority party will self-destruct in the Senate again.

        • B Balz says:

          “Vincent Fort is opposed too” as well he should be. Frankly, inner cities need 7 day sales like they need free ammo dispensers.

          Y’all are looking over here (Sunday Sales), while over there (Senate Resolution 153) is a far more intriguing attempt to codify morality:

          Ga. Republican introduces human life amendment

          ATLANTA – A Republican state lawmaker has introduced a human life amendment that would ask voters to decide whether life begins at conception.

          The constitutional amendment sponsored by state Sen. Barry Loudermilk, of Cassville, needs a two-thirds vote in both the House and the Senate in order to be placed on the ballot for voters to decide.

          Mississippi voters will decide a similar amendment at the polls this fall. Colorado voters rejected one last year.

          The initiative would grant constitutional protections at the moment of conception and would almost certainly prompt a legal challenge since it flies in the face of the standard of viability, established by the 1973 U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Roe v. Wade.

          (Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

  8. GCSULib says:

    Straight from SB 10: “the governing authority of the county or municipality, as appropriate, may authorize package sales by a retailer of malt beverages, wine, and distilled spirits on Sundays from 12:30 P.M. until 11:30 P.M”.

    The “12:30” provision is at least an acknowledgment of one of the concerns of social conservatives.

    • HCL3 says:

      Even the 12:30 PM to 11:30 AM restriction is silly. The state government should just butt out and allow local communities to decide whether alcohol is sold on Sunday (or any other day of the week) and for how long each day. That way some places like Upson County may decide to be dry 100% of the time while “godless” Atlanta might decide to allow the sale of alcohol 24/7.

      I have a feeling that the uber-religious among us are too insecure in their faith to ever allow anything like the above to happen in our state.

  9. NorthGeorgiaGirl says:

    I’m sorry, you aren’t really giving a community a legitimate choice. This bill gives local choice over alcohol on Sunday (in a restaurant) or more alcohol on Sunday (in a restaurant and at the grocery/liquor store.) Why aren’t communities going to be given a real choice: all alcohol all the time, or a completely dry county? Only then is there really a choice for people to make.

    I personally think this is all just a silly diversion. If I wanted a beer on Sunday at home, I would buy it Monday through Saturday. I used to live over 50 miles from the nearest grocery store in a state out west. I only went into town once a week. If I forgot something, I just had to do without. I think this as an issue of personal liberty is being way overblown. I am guessing that polling in some senate districts shows large numbers of voters are very opposed to this issue, and that is the reason many senators are backing away from it.

    For heaven’s sake, don’t we have better things to worry about? It isn’t like drinking alcohol is prohibited on Sunday. This simply isn’t an issue I am going to hold against my senator or representative, no matter which view each of them holds.

    • NorthGeorgiaGirl – what if there are still people who live 50 miles from a store but only make one trip into town a week…. on Sunday? Should they really have to make another 50 mile trip just to buy some alcohol?

      • NorthGeorgiaGirl says:

        Chances are, if they choose Sunday to make one trip into town, they are probably going to church and probably don’t care about it:) Or, if they are that rural and drink, maybe they have an old-timey still in the barn…

        Again, this is such a silly issue. I could swallow it as an issue of personal liberty if drinking on Sunday was illegal, but it isn’t.

        I’m more upset about not being able to buy real Sudafed without being in a federal database than what day of the week I can buy booze.

        • Jeff says:

          NGG:

          I’ll admit, being somewhat near a town of a decent size is pretty easy in North Ga. Even in the most remote areas up there, you’re usually within about a 30 min drive of some town with at LEAST a convenience store.

          HOWEVER, down here in South Ga, that aint always the case. I know I’ve driven some highways down here where you learn REAL quick to fill up at the (rare) gas station when you see them.

          Yet even out in the sticks, we have high speed internet – we just have to sometimes use the satellite, rather than cable, to get it.

        • Even people that go to church drink alcohol. Perhaps they’d like to pick up a bottle of wine to cook dinner with or make some bourbon chicken that week. It’s a shame they’d have to make another 100 mile round trip just to go buy it. Hopefully the Christian Coalition will pay their gas / diesel bill.

    • seenbetrdayz says:

      The whole issue is silly, I’ll grant.

      What on earth is this bill stopping? I’ve mentioned it in another thread, but are we doing God a favor by chaining the beer fridges shut one second after 11:59:59 Saturday night and not opening them again until one second after 11:59:59 Monday morning? I hate to give away secrets, but people usually buy enough beer on Saturday to get them through Sunday, and I’m sure that Dante would have discovered a special circle of Hell reserved for these loop-hole finders had he ever dug under Georgia, but maybe we should look at what the current law is intended to do versus what acually happens?

      You might actually have a point about either banning it completely or legalizing it completely. At least, that would make sense. (although, there’s some history behind prohib— . . . nevermind, nobody cares).

  10. Charlie says:

    NFIB has added this to their scorecard:

    http://blogs.ajc.com/political-insider-jim-galloway/2011/02/15/second-business-group-says-it-will-grade-lawmakers-on-sunday-sales-vote/?cxntfid=blogs_political_insider_jim_galloway

    Strangely, this probably makes it even less likely that Sunday Sales will get a vote.

    “Leadership” knows there are some Senators (or House Members) who will have to vote “no” because of their district demographics. By putting this up for a vote, it allows these generally more rural members to claim that they’re being forced to take a hit from NFIB, which is a powerful scorecard they don’t want to be on the wrong side of.

    Thus, more cover for the Senate to bury this bill. Sigh.

    • Jeff says:

      That might play – if it weren’t for the fact that one of THE most rural legislators in the State (John Bulloch) is the author of this version. He aint exactly from the “big city” of Columbus…

  11. SallyForth says:

    I don’t have a dog in this fight, but I’m sure enjoying watching the Republicans contort themselves. On one side they have the big-money industries who pour money into their pockets, and on the other the religious communities who pour voters to them every two years. The bunch of bozos now totally running our state must feel stretched pretty thin, and nobody deserves it more than they.

    Talking out of both sides of their mouths should finally catch up to them – but I don’t think it will. My bet is that when all is said and done, they will do what the big dogs want them to do on this issue. Then they will play rope-a-dope with the little dogs, placate them by passing another law to restrict the freedom of women in Georgia to the privacy and control of their own bodies.

    Now there’s a Republican ploy – take government out of the liquor aisle of the grocery store, but put government inside a woman’s uterus!

      • SallyForth says:

        HUH? Harry, Bbalz posted this earlier:
        Y’all are looking over here (Sunday Sales), while over there (Senate Resolution 153) is a far more intriguing attempt to codify morality:

        Ga. Republican introduces human life amendment

        ATLANTA – A Republican state lawmaker has introduced a human life amendment that would ask voters to decide whether life begins at conception.

        The constitutional amendment sponsored by state Sen. Barry Loudermilk, of Cassville, needs a two-thirds vote in both the House and the Senate in order to be placed on the ballot for voters to decide.

        Mississippi voters will decide a similar amendment at the polls this fall. Colorado voters rejected one last year.

        The initiative would grant constitutional protections at the moment of conception and would almost certainly prompt a legal challenge since it flies in the face of the standard of viability, established by the 1973 U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Roe v. Wade.

        (Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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