ATLANTA -- Gov. Nathan Deal said today that he’ll sign into law legislation permitting local communities to allow the sale of packaged alcohol on Sunday afternoons, but he’s not in a hurry.
“I’ve said all along that if the General Assembly agreed on it and sent it to my desk I would sign it,” he told reporters after a speech to a public-health conference.
First, he’ll sign non-controversial bills affecting single cities and counties before looking at statewide bills. And he won’t be reviewing any until after the legislature adjourns Thursday night.
The House passed a Senate bill on Sunday sales late Tuesday night and sent the measure to Deal’s desk for his signature. Similar legislation had languished in the legislature in recent years because Deal’s predecessor, Sonny Perdue, announced he would veto it.
Even though he’s a teetotaler like Perdue, Deal told reporters his first week in office that he would sign the bill if it gave local voters the final say. That gave supporters the green light they’d been waiting for, and bills quickly sailed out of House and Senate committees.
The Senate leadership held up consideration of the issue for weeks because they said there weren’t enough votes in the Republican caucus to pass it, which also caused the House to avoid voting on a controversial measure as long as the Senate wasn’t going to act on it. Then as public pressure built, the Senate leaders changed their mind and passed Senate Bill 10 March 16.
The House leadership took its own time bringing it to the full House for a vote, waiting until the next to the last day of the legislative session.
Wednesday, Deal said that even after he signs it, whenever that is, nothing changes immediately.
“Some people would assume that automatically we would see Sunday sales, and that is not, by a long shot, true. It will be now a decision at the local level,” he said. “People will have referendums, and I’m sure there will be campaigns both for and against that. We’ll let the people decide what they think is appropriate.”
One group already preparing for local battles is the Christian Coalition, according to Jerry Luquire, president of the Georgia chapter.
"The passage of the Sunday sales bill by the governor and legislators will increase the work of the Georgia Christian Coalition,” Luquire said. “However, those who have fought for local control will encounter a negative component by the local voters as we continue to try and keep Sunday safer by not having retail whiskey, beer and wine sales."
Deal was also asked about immigration, another high-profile issue that is still to be resolved. The House and Senate disagree about some aspects of legislation that seeks to add restrictions on people in Georgia from other countries without a visa.
One difference is whether to require employers of 10 workers or more to use the federal E-Verify database to check the citizenship of every hire.
Deal noted that the U.S. Supreme Court is considering the legality of the E-Verify system and that he doesn’t have any advice for legislators hashing out the House and Senate positions.
“That’s a consideration that they’ll have to make,” he said.
“They have asked my opinion from time to time on various different things, but there’s not a who lot of area that I can give them any guidance on. There are some very tough choices that have to be made.