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Thursday, December 18, 2008

Georgia's Sunday booze laws to be re-examined

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In the long-ago days of my youth, I thought the two safest investments during a terrible economic time would be booze and newspapers. Everyone wanted to find a job (classifieds!) and everyone wanted to numb the pain when they couldn't find one (Booze!). Turns out I was half right — the newspapers are hurting, but alcohol is doing great!

And state Sen. Seth Harp, R-Midland, says he's got an idea to help get the state out of the red and its citizens closer to rehab. The lawmaker told the Associated Press yesterday he will re-introduce legislation that would allow Georgians to buy spirits on the Sabbath and the state to earn some extra tax revenue on the spirits.

Which means it's time for more political theater.

Georgia is one of three states — Indiana and Connecticut being the others — that don't allow its citizens and visitors to purchase alcohol in stores on Sunday. Last legislative session, a similar effort failed after Gov. Sonny Perdue poured a 40 on that ass. He thinks people should "plan ahead."

The Georgia Christian Coalition says "bad" to Harp's idea and has reacted in a sane and logical manner.

“Would the senator be willing to legalize prostitution and tax that, too?” [Georgia Christian Coalition executive director Jim Beck] asked. “I think there are greater issues at stake here than just a quick buck.”

Which is the same thing the governor said last year. If Harp's proposed legislation passes, Andre says, city and county residents will be given the choice to vote on the issue. Jason Pye doesn't think lawmakers have the guts to stand up to the religious right.

I'm trying to be diplomatic here, but if you recall from last session's kerfuffle, this issue is loaded with hypocrisy and using reason to mask special interests. Some state lawmakers say Sunday sales would increase alcohol-related car accidents, yet fail to mention you can imbibe at restaurants on the Sabbath. How do we get home from these eating establishments? (I dunno, we're usually too blacked-out to remember.) Some retail outlets say Sunday sales would actually eat into their profits. Last session there were under-the-radar efforts to fight the change by those who you think would profit from selling booze on the Sabbath.

In the end this fight isn't about giving voters the choice via referendum, it's about people with money — and morality — who stand to win or lose from the measure, and keeping you from ever having that choice. And for a statehouse that's largely dominated by officials who call themselves fans of the free market, this tinkering with commerce and personal choice strikes me as odd.

From the comments on the AP article and the poll on the AJC's site, it appears most people at least want a voice. If lawmakers once again fail to pass the measure, you'll know that your elected officials didn't think you could handle the task. If there's any other rationale behind the blockage, I'd be thrilled to hear it.

(Photo illustration from Daily Kos)

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