Today crucial for Weaver Sunday alcohol sales bill
by Tim Lockette
Apr 30, 2013 | 4609 views |  0 comments | 19 19 recommendations | email to a friend | print
MONTGOMERY — A bill that would allow the Weaver City Council to legalize Sunday alcohol sales could come up for a vote today in the Alabama Senate.

If it doesn't, Weaver residents and visitors will likely have to wait at least another year to buy a drink in their town on Sunday.

"We're running out of time quickly," said Weaver Mayor Wayne Willis.

For weeks, Willis has been pleading with legislators to pass a bill that would allow the Weaver City Council to approve Sunday alcohol sales, something Willis hopes will persuade businesses to have their property annexed into the city.

The bill, introduced in the Senate more than a month ago, was approved by a Senate committee but hasn’t moved yet to the Senate floor for a vote.

Sen. Del Marsh, R-Anniston, plans to seek that vote today, said his spokesman, Derek Trotter. Still, the Weaver bill will wait in line with a host of other bills that must also pass the Senate today for a realistic shot at passage by both houses. Today is the 26th day of the Legislature's 30-day session, leaving little time for Senate bills to make it through the House committee process.

Trotter said the Weaver bill has been delayed by other Senate business — in particular, the passage of "sunset bills" which reauthorize the existence of certain state agencies and must be passed before the end of the session.

The delay has irked Willis, who watched as a similar bill for Anniston, Weaver's larger neighbor, fought its way to passage by both houses. Willis is doubly frustrated because misinformed people keep calling him to congratulate him on getting Sunday sales.

"They've read about the Anniston bill and they think we got ours, too," he said.

Anniston leaders said their bill — officially the Anniston Ecotourism Beverage Bill — was designed to give the city the option of approving Sunday sales in order to boost crowds at weekend events in the city.

Weaver's leaders had a different plan. Willis said Sunday sales would encourage businesses along Alabama 21 to seek annexation into the city. Smokin' Joes Tobacco and Beverage Store and Heroes American Grille both lie along the much-traveled highway.

Alabama 21 connects Anniston to Jacksonville, but parts of the highway are within Weaver's police jurisdiction.

Willis said annexation would increase the city's tax revenue from both establishments — and would allow the city to establish a presence on Alabama 21.

"This isn't about revenue," Willis said. "It's about the growth of the town."

Heroes owner Marc Spaulding said passage of the bill — and annexation into Weaver with Sunday sales — would add 15 to 20 percent to his sales. He said the sports bar typically doesn't open on Sundays because it's too hard to draw customers without giving them a chance to drink.

"It's really hurting us on NFL weekends," he said. "Nobody wants to go out to watch the game with wings and a Coke."

Passage today wouldn't make the Weaver bill law, but would get it to the House in time for passage.

Anniston's Sunday sales bill passed the Senate 25-2, but faced a tough fight in the House, where two of Calhoun County's four legislators refused to endorse it.

One of those opponents, Rep. Randy Wood, R-Saks, said he'd also vote against Weaver sales.

"I'm opposed to it, and I believe more than half of my constituents feel the same way," he said.

Anniston's Sunday sales bill still awaits Gov. Robert Bentley's signature. Earlier this month, Bentley sent the bill back to the Legislature with suggested revisions, which both houses passed last week. Passage of such revisions, known as executive amendments, typically guarantees a bill the governor's signature, but the bill was unsigned as of Monday afternoon.

Bentley spokesman Jeremy King said that by law, the governor had until Thursday to sign the bill.

Capitol and statewide reporter Tim Lockette: 256-294-4193. On Twitter: @TLockette_Star.
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