Sunday package sales bill goes to the governor!

Sorry to sound so excited about something so relatively minor, but it’s easy to grasp at anything positive that comes out of the Georgia legislature these days. Like many others, I had assumed that the bill to allow local governments to call for ballot referendums on Sunday package beer, wine, liquor sales was dead, again, for the 2011 legislative session.

But over the last couple of weeks, there’s been a renewed push for Senate Bill 10, which tonight overwhelmingly passed the Georgia house 127-44. How can a bill that has so much support come so close to stalling? The powerful lobby of religious conservatives in the state exerted a lot of pressure on Republican lawmakers, especially in the senate, and that almost killed this relatively minor step. I say “relatively minor” because Georgia is only one of three states that allows absolutely no Sunday package sales, and because many municipalities will not put the measure on the ballot. Those that do — or even consider it — will no doubt face considerable pressure from religious conservatives.

Of course, Georgians can already buy alcohol by the drink at restaurants on Sunday, and the ban on package sales has been a burdensome limit on dealers — large and small — who are forced to stock and cool product that they are not allowed to sell one day out of every seven.

Since Savannah holds municipal elections in 2011, I hope the city council will quickly move to put the measure on the ballot. Gov. Deal has already indicated he will sign it.