A House panel quickly passed its own version of legislation Wednesday allowing local voters to approve Sunday beer, wine and liquor sales at stores.
House sponsors said they didn’t want to wait on the Senate, which has for years been reluctant to consider Sunday sales bills, to act.
A Senate committee approved similar legislation last week. But initial talk of putting it to a full Senate vote this week evaporated.
So the House Regulated Industries Committee approved Sunday sales legislation with no opposition Wednesday.
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House Regulated Industries Chairman Roger Williams, R-Dalton, said he will push for a vote of the full House on the legislation, House Bill 69, rather than wait for the Senate to act on the issue.
When he was governor, Sonny Perdue threatened to veto Sunday sales legislation, and no bill got far because of it. But Perdue left office in January, and current Gov. Nathan Deal, while not a drinker, has said he would sign a Sunday sales bill because it would give local voters the chance to decide the issue.
Williams said he was happy “we have a governor now who is open-minded about it.”
Williams and lobbyists for the grocery and convenience store industries pushing the bill noted that no beer, wine or liquor could be sold if the legislation passes. Local city councils and county commissioners would have to decide whether to put the issue to voters in the same way they are now allowed to ask voters to approve alcohol sales at restaurants and bars on Sundays.
When the issue came before a Senate committee, no one spoke out in opposition to the bill. But Wednesday morning, Ray Newman of the Georgia Baptist Convention asked the committee to vote down the proposal.
“We have continued to see encroachment on the Lord’s day,” he said. “This is something that needs to stop at this point.”
But Rep. Billy Mitchell, D-Stone Mountain, a member of the committee, said Georgians have waited long enough to vote on the issue.
“I believe the majority of Georgians want the right for their voices to be heard,” he said.