April 14, 2017 Radio Commentary

Liquor Wins, Kids Lose

Radio Commentary, 90.7, 91.7 New Life FM, April 14, 2017 – By Sue Ella Deadwyler

Today, I have some questions for you.  Why would three Democrats and three Republicans in the Georgia House initiate the repeal of a law that prohibits the sale of alcohol near schools, churches or colleges?  Three Democrats – Smyre, Hugley, and Buckner – and three Republicans – Hawkins, Pezold, and Richard Smith – coauthored H.B. 510 to completely eliminate the Georgia law outlining specific mandatory distances between the selling of alcoholic beverages and schools, churches and college campuses.

H.B. 510 was introduced February 27th and passed the House four days later.  It went to the Senate Regulated Industries committee March 22nd and passed the Senate within two days. It repeals Code Section 3-3-21 and leaves that section of law blank, reserved for future legislation.

So, effective July 1st, no longer must sellers of (a) distilled spirits be 100 yards away from a church building or 200 yards away from a school or educational building, school grounds, or college campus; no longer must the sale of (b) wine or beer be 100 yards from a school building, school grounds, or college campus, or within 100 yards of a government-owned alcoholic treatment center; no longer must the sale of alcoholic beverages for (c) consumption on the premises be 100 yards away from a housing authority project that has 300 units or less owned or is operated under the Housing Authorities Law.All of those restrictions will disappear on July 1st when H.B. 510 becomes law, unless the governor vetoes it by the second week in May.

The question now is: what law will take its place?  Will Code Section 3-3-21 be reserved, but never used?  If no law replaces it, businesses, such as “destination resorts” or casinos could be built next-door to schools, churches, college campuses, alcoholic treatment centers, public housing developments, and so could beer gardens or distilleries or liquor stores that operate 24/7.

H.B. 510 does not mention local ordinances or zoning restrictions, so, maybe, a town or county or municipality could control the situation with local policies, but that’s not guaranteed in this bill, and it passed overwhelmingly.

Only 13 Republican representatives and five Republican senators voted against it.  No Democrat voted against it.  I’d like to know whether the 190 legislators that voted FOR IT realize they put alcohol ABOVE the welfare of children.  Call 404 656-1776* and ask Governor Deal to veto H.B. 510!  For Georgia Insight I’m Sue Ella Deadwyler, your Capitol correspondent.