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Five lessons we learned from Sunday sales

The easiest bill to pass was the most controversial



The state Senate last week finally approved a bill to allow voters to decide whether they wanted the option of purchasing alcohol on Sundays. Just weeks after the Senate's GOP leadership decided during a closed-door powwow to block the popular measure, the upper chamber buckled under pressure from grocery and convenience store lobbyists, took a deep swallow and finally debated the measure. (By the time you read this, the House, which we're told is more open to the legislation, might already have OK'd the bill.) Here's what the brouhaha reminded us about the Gold Dome:

Elected officials remember who put them in office. For Republicans, that often means right-wing Christians, the always-makes-it-to-the-polls group that was responsible for killing the legislation just a few weeks ago. For others, it's the lobbyists who strong-armed lawmakers into passing the measure the week before. The rest listened to their constituents.

Local control is a beautiful thing when it fits your agenda. Ask any conservative lawmaker about local control - the populist concept that some political actions, especially those which involve social issues, are best handled by city and county governments - and he'll say he's all for it. Unless it involves booze, in which he'll find nonsensical arguments to block the legislation.

Don't trust the usual suspects to oppose - or support - a measure. One of Sunday sales' most unexpected critics was Vincent Fort, a black Atlanta Democrat who represents an area "from Bankhead to Buckhead." Black churches were staunchly opposed to the thought of liquor stores creating more blight in their communities. Fort, in the end, sided with his Bankhead constituents.

Acts of desperation are entertaining, if ugly. If lawmakers can't keep a bill from coming up for a vote, they'll do all they can to kill it on the floor. One of Sunday sales' biggest opponents, Sen. David Shafer, R-Duluth, introduced a seemingly benign amendment that would've required the bill to be sent back to committee - effectively killing it for this session. His efforts failed. Sen. Mitch Seabaugh of Sharpsburg rhetorically asked colleague Bill Cowsert of Athens if the measure would increase incidences of domestic violence. "Absolutely," Cowsert asserted.

Priorities often get misplaced. During debate over the measure, Sen. Bill Heath, R-Bremen, whose legislation this year has focused for the most part on clamping down on illegal immigrants and hijacking the federal health care program, implored his colleagues to consider the children in broken homes who might be subjected to more abuse. Will these same senators think about the children when the budget proposed by House Republicans comes up for discussion? That plan includes cuts to the state departments of education, public health and human services - all of which provide vital services to children.

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