Originally created 02/10/01

House rejects beer bill



ATLANTA - Shrugging off assurances that teen-agers and abusive drinkers would not be a likely market for "strong-malt" beer, the House on Friday rejected legislation that would have permitted the sale of imported beer with a higher alcohol content.

Opponents of the bill, which was defeated 60-108, questioned the logic of allowing stronger beer to be sold in Georgia at the same time lawmakers are considering legislation cracking down on drunken drivers.

"As a high-school teacher, I've gone to too many funerals of young people killed by drunk driving," said Rep. Kathy Cox, R-Peachtree City. "We're not going to save everybody, but we're not willing to vote for legislation that increases the problem."

The bill would have permitted the sale of European imported beers - including strong ale, imperial stout and bock - with an alcohol content of up to 14 percent.

Current state law allows beer to have up to 6 percent alcohol.

Legislators approved an amendment proposed by the measure's sponsor, Rep. Stephanie Stuckey, to limit the sale of stronger beer to bars, restaurants and liquor stores, thus keeping it out of supermarkets and convenience stores, where teen-agers might have easier access to it.

Ms. Stuckey and other supporters argued that Georgia is losing tax dollars to other states by not allowing stronger beer, to the tune of $2.28 per case sold.

But advocates for the imported brew are losing ground in the General Assembly. The House had passed the bill last year, only to see it die in the Senate.