The state of Georgia is one of only three states in the country that bans the sales of beer, wine and liquor on Sundays. For years now Georgia has been working on legislation to allow the voters the ability to have local control, meaning the voter can vote at the county level to determine if their county will allow the sale of alcohol in a store. It’s important to note that Georgia allows for the sale and consumption of alcohol in a bar, but you can’t purchase alcohol at a store on Sunday to be consumed in your home. I scratch my head every time I write that… I can buy and drink in a bar, but not buy and drink at home… common sense out the window!
Why do I care about such a stupid issue, especially when I don’t drink and we are in an economic financial hysteria right now? It’s principle.
On February 7th I read the Facebook Post of Georgia State Senator Judson Hill, he commented on his opposition of Senate Bill 10 which allows counties the right to have voters vote on authorizing package sales by a retailer on Sundays. He’s a Republican and in my opinion, a good guy. I met Senator Hill on multiple occasions during election rallies where we both spoke about “Limited Government”, “The Constitution” and “What our Founding Fathers Believed in”.
I could not believe my eyes; a State Senator actually wrote that he stood with one religion to oppose Sunday sales. My mind raced and I recalled the fundamentals of why the Founding Fathers of the United States stood firm in the values of Judeo-Christian beliefs. Judeo-Christian beliefs being the basis of free will, liberty and a perfect picture of two different religions being respected and living harmoniously. The pure belief that one religion should not trump or rule another, that legislators do not discriminate or legislate based upon one religion.
I was proud that Governor Deal was quoted as saying that he would sign the Sunday Sales Bill and allow the voters to decide on the local level. It makes sense and after years of what I believe to be non-rational excuses, we had a Governor who believed in limited government and would allow voters to decide in their own communities. My pride was broken on February 23rd while listening to an interview with Russ Spencer of Fox 5 News and Governor Deal. The governor says he won’t be disappointed if the Senate bill remains stalled in committee and never gets to his desk. A VERY DIFFERENT picture painted instantly, a behind closed door game and political double talk exposed. A newly elected Republican governor caught in double talk and not supporting the “limited government” stance we Republicans so proudly speak.
As I stood at the Sunday Sales rally on February 23rd I listened as activists and legislators called for limiting government, allowing local control, choice, and freedom from one religion over another. It reminded me of the 2010 election but my gut wrenched as I heard the name of another opposing the bill. “It’s stuck in rules committee, even though Senate Majority Leader Chip Rogers supports and is co-sponsor of the bill, he can’t move it forward because he does not have the Republican votes. Senator Shafer is opposing the bill and is herding the other Republicans.” And all this time I thought it was Senator Hill herding the charge to block the bill.
This morning, February 24th, I spoke to Senator David Shafer on, and off, the record. Needless to say I was disappointed to hear that yes, four years ago his committee gave a “do pass” to the bill, but he no longer supports the bill because the errors he corrected four years ago are back. Here is his official statement.
“Senate Bill 10 is flawed in its current form. Local communities should determine the hours of alcohol sales, but the bill would mandate alcohol sales until 11:30 p.m. on Sundays. Many communities end alcohol sales earlier than 11:30 p.m. during the week. It does not make sense to have longer hours on Sunday than any other day of the week or to remove local option for that day only.
If we expand weekend alcohol sales, we should couple it with tougher penalties on the sale of alcohol to the underaged.
I have constituents and supporters on both sides of Sunday sales issue. I have members of my own family on both sides of this issue.”
When asked about his relationship with the Georgia Alcohol Dealers who oppose the bill and specifically Richard Tucker, who is the owner of a beverage superstore, Senator Shafer stated that Mr. Tucker is no longer a constituent and he moved outside of his district. That did not answer my question of speculation and rumors of the driving force behind his opposition being Richard Tucker and the Georgia Alcohol Dealers.
When asked if there was any data supporting the need to increase penalties on under-aged sales, meaning data showing under-aged kids purchasing on weekends, he only had data attesting to kids being in school during the week. I guess as a legislator, I expect facts to be presented on why more legislation is actually needed. There are already laws against selling alcohol to minors.
I also challenged the “hours of operation” statement knowing the bill states “may authorize package sales by a retailer of malt beverages and wine on Sundays from 12:30 P.M. until 11:30 P.M.” I explained I read that as a window of time that a private retailer could sale beer and wine. However, Senator Shafer still provided the above statement. “May” means “to be allowed or permitted to” and “to use to indicate a certain measure of likelihood or possibility” it is not a mandate and common sense dictates that private businesses have the ability to open during those hours but are not required to.
I like Senator David Shafer and think he’s also a good guy, however I’m disappointed that he is not living up to the fundamental principle of limited government and is not taking a leadership position to help herd other Republicans to follow through on the limited government principle we Republicans so often speak of.
I’m sad to report that our Governor, Senator Judson Hill and Senator David Shafer are Republicans who in my mind have gone wrong on this issue and have placed either Big Government or Religion over the ability for the will of the people.
Again, why bother with this issue? Principle and Accountability.