Two-thirds of consumers in Georgia want the right to vote on allowing stores to sell beer, wine and booze on Sunday, according to a recent poll, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported.
While a free-market Republican caucus that includes several state Senate leaders supports the Sunday vote, and grocery and convenience stores say customers, many of whom do their weekly shopping on Sunday, demand the right to buy alcoholic beverages in their stores, Senate leaders are not intending to hold a committee hearing on the issue, let alone a vote.
“I can’t explain it other than to say it’s caught up in election-year politics,” said Sen. Seth Harp (R-Midland), who sponsored the Sunday sales bill last year. “I have told those supporting the bill to lobby the lieutenant governor and his staff.”
But Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle, the Senate president, is standing firm. “At this time, there simply has not been any kind of broad expression of support for a vote on Sunday sales this year from Senate members or from the citizens of our state,” his spokeswoman, Jaillene Hunter told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
Groups lobbying for the bill, including grocery and convenience stores, are planning to mount a fresh campaign to sway lawmakers including the addition of a new Web site, called votesundaysales.com, that will promote the bill and make it easy for Georgians to contact their lawmakers.
The Sunday sales bill would allow communities to decide whether they want to allow beer, wine and liquor sales on Sundays. Currently, Georgia is one of three states that ban Sunday sales of alcoholic beverages at stores.
Polls have consistently shown strong support for letting Georgians vote on Sunday beer and wine sales, particularly in the metro area. Last month, in an Atlanta Journal-Constitution poll, 65% said they back the concept.
Religious conservatives have strongly opposed the sales, saying alcohol shouldn’t be sold on the Christian sabbath. And some law makers who oppose the bill cite religious reasons.
The bill narrowly passed Senate Regulated Industries chairman David Shafer’s committee last session. But it was stalled by Cagle and other Senate leaders.
This being an election year, Republicans are reluctant to risk votes by going against religious conservatives, which means the bill may not make any headway.