The Reality is Outpacing the Distortions About Sunday Liquor Sales|
by Jim Tudor
Georgia Online News Service
Here is the central question about Georgia Senate Bill 16, allowing local communities to control Sunday alcohol sales: Will the Senate vote on the bill, or will it vote the myths surrounding the bill?
Our country and state are changing, and not always in positive ways. So many people look around at the deterioration of values and institutions that are the foundation of our society and feel helpless or even angry at the attacks on the things we hold dear.
Perhaps no event embodied this more than the attacks on Pastor Rick Warren, who was castigated for his role in the inauguration of President Obama for simply sharing the traditional scriptural view that marriage is for one man and one woman. As an elder in my church, I share the feelings these events are causing.
It is against this backdrop that SB16 is being considered. Having worked on this issue for a couple years now, I have come to understand that many who oppose SB16 are projecting on this issue their understandable frustrations with other events in our society, and in the process have contorted this bill far beyond its actual content.
The reality of SB16 is so straightforward that, for those who may not have read the bill, it is perhaps shockingly different from the image presented by both its opponents and the media. SB16 does one simple thing: It says the state of Georgia will allow voters to control alcohol sales in retail establishments (i.e. grocery stores and convenience outlets) in the same way local voters control every other area of alcohol sales in their counties and cities.
That is all that SB16 does. It falls directly in line with the time-honored Southern tradition that allows county and city voters to determine how dry their county is going to be, something that Alabama, Mississippi, South Carolina, Tennessee and almost every other state inside and outside the South already allows.
Of course, my fellow Christians are not the only ones who have misunderstood or misrepresented this bill. Our friends in the media have done the same because to be frank nothing sells newspapers like a headline saying: "Sunday liquor sales on tap again in the Legislature."
These headlines leave the impression that SB16 would mandate Sunday sales in Georgia. If I had not worked this issue for two years, and knew nothing more than what the newspaper headlines say about this bill, I would probably share the alarm that some faith-based voters have shown.
SB16 has continued to gain momentum it has almost twice the number of cosponsors this year than last year because over time the reality of the bill's simplicity is outweighing the distortions. In addition, since lawmakers have chosen to pass mandated Sunday sales in places like the Gwinnett Braves' stadium, the obvious contradiction in not allowing local control of retail sales is becoming increasingly harder to defend.
But there is far from any guarantee SB16 will pass. In fact, the myths around this bill are proving hard to dispel again this year.
Retailers are Georgia's largest employer. They do not want a Gwinnett-stadium-style, state-mandated Sunday sales bill. They want nothing more than to be treated fairly and for the General Assembly to end the unique state-level ban on retail sales and allow local control of retail sales in the same way we allow local control of every other area of alcohol policy.
If the Georgia Senate votes the reality of SB16, local control will prevail.
Jim Tudor is president of the Georgia Association of Convenience Stores. [full bio]