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26 April 2011

Northeast Georgia Cities & Counties Favor Local Control of Sunday Sales

The 2011 legislative session saw the Georgia General Assembly pass a bill that would give the state's 159 counties and 535 cities the opportunity to decide locally whether to allow the sale of alcoholic beverages on Sunday.

Advocates of Senate Bill 10, the aptly named "Sunday Sales" bill, argued that whether or not people support Sunday alcohol sales, they should be able to vote at the ballot box "yes" or "no" for Sunday sales.

SB 10 proponents repeatedly said that the legislation had little to do with the sale of alcohol on Sundays, and every thing to do with local communities having local control over local issues. If Houston County wants to authorize Sunday alcohol sales, that's their prerogative; and if Forsyth County does not want Sunday alcohol sales, then their residents can vote it down at the ballot box.

That argument of local control over local issues is an argument that several local elected officials in northeast Georgia have echoed in recent days.

Athens-Clarke Mayor Nancy Denson and a majority of commissioners already are on record supporting a Sunday sales referendum.

The Braselton City Council will talk about Sunday sales at a work session May 5, City Manager Jennifer Dees said.

The Jackson County Commission will follow the cities' lead, Chairman Hunter Bicknell said.

Watkinsville citizens haven't made their opinions known one way or the other, Mayor Joe Walter said.

"We haven't really thought about it," Walter said. "It's something that would have to come from the citizens."

Oconee County Commission Chairman Melvin Davis said he is personally opposed to [Sunday alcohol sales], but would support putting it on the ballot if voters ask.

Aued, Blake (2011-4-24). No rush to vote on Sunday sales. Athens Banner-Herald. Retrieved on 2011-4-26.

Once Gov. Deal signs SB 10 into law, the following question will appear on voters' ballots once their city or county authorizes the referendum:

"Shall the governing authority of (name of county or municipality) be authorized to permit and regulate package sales by retailers of both malt beverages and wine on Sundays between the hours of 12:30 P.M. and 11:30 P.M.?"

All those in favor will vote yes. All those opposed will vote no. If more than one-half of the votes cast are in favor of Sunday sales, then the sale of alcohol on Sundays is legal. If the people vote no, then that's that.

At the end of the day, either way, the people at the local level will have spoken. At the end of the day, it's all about local control.