Alabama Senate OK with letting local people decide Sunday alcohol sales question
by Tim Lockette
tlockette@annistonstar.com
Feb 27, 2013 | 9634 views |  0 comments | 12 12 recommendations | email to a friend | print
MONTGOMERY — A bill to allow the Anniston City Council to approve Sunday alcohol sales sailed to a quick victory in the Alabama Senate on Tuesday, but approval in the House may be a lot tougher.

With no debate, senators voted 25-2 to approve the bill, which would allow the sale of alcohol “each day of the week” at retail establishments or restaurants if the Anniston City Council approves.

“Awesome,” said Anniston City Councilman David Reddick on hearing of the bill’s passage.

The council unanimously approved a resolution earlier this year asking the Legislature to pass the bill, which supporters say would give the city a leg up in attracting tourism.

Sporting events such as the Woodstock 5K run and the Sunny King Criterium bicycle race have been bright points in the city’s sometimes troubled economy in recent years. City leaders have expressed a desire to develop the city into a haven for bikers, hikers and runners — and council members are hoping Sunday sales will help attract more people to sporting events.

“This bill is a smaller part of a bigger picture,” Reddick said. “Our focus isn’t on drinking, it’s on ecotourism.”

Sen. Del Marsh, R-Anniston, sponsored the bill at the request of the City Council.

Only two senators voted against it: Sen. Roger Bedford, D-Russellville, and Sen. Shadrack McGill, R-Scottsboro.

McGill said he doesn’t vote for any bill that promotes the use of alcohol.

“Being a foster parent, I’ve seen the damage alcohol does to lives and in homes,” he said.

Local bills often pass unanimously, or nearly so, in the Alabama Legislature. Lawmakers typically give their approval to any local measure that has the approval of the delegates from the city affected by that bill. If the bill doesn’t have unanimous support from the local delegation, it usually doesn’t reach the floor for a vote.

That system could pose a problem for the Anniston sales bill in the House, where local delegates have expressed misgivings about the bill.

Rep. Steve Hurst, R-Munford, said he couldn’t bring himself to vote for the bill.

“My Bible tells me to keep the Sabbath day holy,” he said. Hurst said he doesn’t have a problem with people having the right to drink, but he’s cautious of expanding drinking on Sunday.

“If it’s about tourism, they should just open private clubs,” he said. Some private clubs, in which customers sign up for memberships, can serve alcohol on Sundays.

Hurst’s district doesn’t stretch into Anniston but does include parts of Calhoun County, giving him a say in the bill’s fate. Even Anniston’s representatives may not be unanimous in their support of the measure, however.

“I’m trying to get this through committee, but it won’t be easy,” said Rep. Barbara Boyd, D-Anniston. Boyd said she supported the bill because the entire City Council signed a resolution asking for it. She said she’s the lawmaker who represents the largest part of Anniston and had a duty to give the council what it asked for.

Anniston’s other lawmaker, Republican Rep. Randy Wood, was not yet convinced Tuesday.

“I have reservations about the bill,” Wood said. He declined to elaborate on what those reservations were.

Rep. K.L. Brown, R-Jacksonville, said he’d support the bill if the Anniston representatives did. Anniston isn’t in Brown’s district, but because his district is in Calhoun County, he’s part of the local delegation. He said voting in unison with the Anniston lawmakers was “the right thing to do.”

“It isn’t in my district, so I’m going to respect their wishes,” he said.

Jacksonville’s Brown said he’d had only one call in opposition to the bill, from a woman who said she didn’t want to see liquor stores open on Sundays.

The bill wouldn’t automatically open liquor stores on Sundays, said Anniston City Councilman Seyram Selase. He said the bill, if passed, would give the city the ability to decide whether it wants to approve Sunday sales, and where.

“It could be in a special district,” he said. “I don’t know. This just gives us the ability to decide.”

Wood and Selase both said council members would consult with lawmakers today to try to make the case for the bill.

The Star’s attempts to reach Anniston Mayor Vaughn Stewart were unsuccessful Tuesday.

Capitol & statewide correspondent: 256-294-4193. On Twitter @TLockette_Star.

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