If Georgia lawmakers approve Sunday alcohol sales, the ball is in Columbus Council’s court

mowen@ledger-enquirer.comApril 10, 2011 

If the Georgia General Assembly approves the long-debated Sunday alcohol sales bill this week, and if Gov. Nathan Deal signs it, as he has said he would, the next step would be up to Columbus Council.

The bill, which has already passed the state Senate and should end up on the House floor before the session ends Thursday, would not automatically make Sunday sales legal across Georgia. It would allow municipalities to hold referenda to make the sales legal in their communities.

A poll of Columbus’ 10 councilors shows that a proposal to put the measure to a public vote would likely pass by a 7-1 margin, with two councilors unsure how they would vote.

Even if the legislators pass the bill and the governor signs it and it becomes law in July and council approves a referendum, it will still be a while before it comes to a vote.

None of the councilors said they would call for a special election, which would cost taxpayers in the neighborhood of $100,000, according to Nancy Boren, the city’s director of elections and registration.

The next regularly scheduled election in Columbus is the presidential preference primary next February or March.

So at the earliest, it would be next year before you can pick up a bottle Sunday on the way home from church.

Here are some comments from members of Columbus Council:

Pops Barnes, District 1

“I think it should go before the public. We represent the public, so we want to know what they think. It’s the public’s business.”

Glenn Davis, District 2

“Certainly I’m going to keep my ears open to what my constituents have to say, but any time you can place a matter in the hands of the public, it’s a good thing. I’m a big believer in letting the public exercise their freedom.”

Bruce Huff, District 3

“I can’t answer that question right now. I want to get back to district three and see what the people think. I’m here to represent them, so I want to know their feelings before I decide.”

Evelyn Turner-Pugh, District 4

“I believe in giving people an option. This way, those who want to have input have the opportunity.”

Mike Baker, District 5

“I understand those who are opposed to it and I understand those who want to see it on the ballot. But if the state legislators say the local citizens should decide, I have no problem letting the local people decide. It will be the citizens’ choice.”

Gary Allen, District 6

“I don’t believe in standing in the way of the public’s right to vote on something, so I would support a referendum.”

Evelyn “Mimi” Woodson, District 7

“I’m not sure yet. I’ll have to wait and see how my constituents feel about it. I don’t like to commit myself to a vote before I know how the people I represent feel about an issue.”

Red McDaniel, District 8

“This is one of the few times I’ll agree with (state Sen.) Josh McKoon. The only ones who want it is the grocery stores. The liquor stores don’t want it. They say it’ll cost them money to open on Sunday.

“I could change my mind down the road, but right now, I don’t see any need for it.”

Judy Thomas, District 9, at large

“I would not propose to put it on the ballot, unless a group that came to us and asked.

“But if someone comes to us and asks, I would be in favor of a ballot proposition.”

Skip Henderson, District 10, at large

“The purest form of government is to let the public vote on what they want. I can’t see a reason why I wouldn’t want to let the public vote for it, or against it.”

Mayor Teresa Tomlinson

“I have not heard a word about it from anyone on either side of the issue, so I haven’t thought a lot about it” Tomlinson said. “I’d really have to see how the community feels about it and make my decision then.”

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