ATLANTA --- Georgia voters could get a chance to say whether they want their local stores to sell beer, wine and whiskey on Sunday afternoons.
Legislation to pave the way for local votes would remove the last Prohibition-era hurdle to near universal access to libations, save for Sunday mornings. Communities already have the ability to vote on the sales of packaged spirits six days a week and liquor by the drink seven days.
"I think it has the greatest chance of passing than ever before," said Senate Majority Leader Chip Rogers.
Supporters of Sunday alcohol sales pushed a bill during Gov. Sonny Perdue's administration, only to see it die when the governor announced he would veto it if passed.
Gov. Nathan Deal told reporters when asked Tuesday that he would sign a bill into law that permits local voters to decide.
"I believe that's what democracy is all about," he said.
By the end of the week, legislation had been introduced in the House and Senate modeled on the law that let local voters decide about Sunday drink sales. Tourism is one of the driving forces, according to Jim Tudor, a lobbyist for the Georgia Association of Convenience Stores.
"Especially in markets like Savannah, the tourist areas, unless you're coming from Connecticut or Indiana, you're expecting to be able to make a purchase on Sunday," he said.
Convenience stores in places such as Augusta and Brunswick lose sales on Sunday to bordering states, he said.
Some conservative religious groups oppose all alcohol consumption, especially on the day they go to church.
Many owners of liquor stores see no reason to pay employees to open another day when the stores don't expect to make any more money.
A survey released Thursday by InsiderAdvantage shows that, by a margin of 52 percent to 40 percent, the 456 registered voters questioned favor the legislation. The poll, taken Wednesday night, has a 4.5 percent margin of error.
Every sex, race and age group favored letting locals vote on Sunday sales, except for blacks, who oppose it 53 percent to 35 percent.
One in four voters questioned said it would be reason to vote against re-election of any lawmaker who supported it.
An informal survey of legislators shows about one-third will vote in favor of allowing a local referendum, one-third against and one-third undecided.
For example, supporting it are Reps. Quincy Murphy, D-Augusta; Barbara Sims, R-Augusta; Earnest Smith, D-Augusta; and Lee Anderson, R-Grovetown.
"I have no problem with the public voting for it. ... I think that everyone should get to voice their opinion," Smith said.
Opposing it is Sen. Hardie Davis, D-Augusta.
"I don't drink," he said. "... Given my capacity (as a minister), from a purely religious capacity, I would have to stay away from that."
On the fence is Sen. Jesse Stone, R-Waynesboro.
"I haven't decided yet," he said. "I've had some calls from home, but I want to hear them out first."
Reach Walter Jones at firstname.lastname@example.org.