Ga. lawmakers take up Sunday alcohol sales

ATLANTA - The House of Representatives is gearing up to vote this week on the midyear budget adjustments while the Senate considers Sunday alcohol sales and budget restrictions.

Although 25 percent of the 2011 legislative session is over, the major work is still ahead. One major piece of business is the approval of changes to the current year's $18 billion budget.

The adjustments reflect $28 million in fees that didn't materialize as planned last session and resulting cuts of 4 percent to most agencies. However, the Department of Education gets an increase to account for rises in enrollment since the previous fall.

"Next week is going to be almost all budget," said House Republican Leader Larry O'Neal of Bonaire.

The subcommittees of the House Appropriations Committee will each vote separately, then the full committee at 8 a.m. Wednesday. Next stop is the House Rules Committee at 9 a.m. to set up a vote before the full House Thursday afternoon.

To allow time for the staff to prepare for Wednesday's vote, the House will be in recess Tuesday.

A vote by the House on the 13th legislative day is the earliest in recent memory, O'Neal said.

"The idea is we need a lot more time for the [fiscal year] '12 budget since that's where all the real challenges are," he said.

Senate Republican Leader Chip Rogers of Woodstock told his colleagues the Senate will vote on the midyear adjustment Feb. 24. In the meantime, the Senate will consider two proposals that will impact future budgets.

"I hope the Taxpayer Protection Act moves to the floor along with a new version of the Zero-Based Budgeting Act," he said Friday. "These two measures combined could change the nature of Georgia budgeting for generations."

The Protection Act that Rogers is sponsoring would limit the expansion of the state budget to the combination of the inflation rate plus the rate of population growth. Zero-based budgeting is a switch from the current continuation budgeting in which any spending approved in a prior year is continued in future years. The new approach would have lawmakers approve every penny of each agency's budget.

Legislation to allow local voters to decide if their community's stores can sell alcohol on Sunday afternoons is also likely to hit the Senate floor this week.

It received minimal opposition in a committee chaired by the bill's sponsor, Sen. John Bulloch, R-Ochlocknee, polls show the public supports it and Gov. Nathan Deal has said he will sign it into law.

walter.jones@morris.com, (404) 589-8424



Read more at Jacksonville.com: http://jacksonville.com/news/georgia/2011-02-07/story/sunday-alcohol-sales-could-get-georgia-senate-vote-week#ixzz1DGcok9az

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