Weaver Sunday alcohol sales bill hits Senate
by Tim Lockette
Mar 14, 2013 | 8881 views |  0 comments | 11 11 recommendations | email to a friend | print
MONTGOMERY — A bill introduced in the Alabama Senate Tuesday night would give the Weaver City Council the power to approve alcohol sales on Sundays.

“I’m not asking legislators to compromise their moral values,” said Weaver Mayor Wayne Willis, a proponent of the bill. “I’m just asking them to give us a choice.”

Sen. Del Marsh, R-Anniston, is sponsor of the bill, which wouldn’t by itself legalize Sunday sales, but would give the City Council the power to legalize them if the members wanted. Earlier this year, Marsh sponsored a similar bill that would extend the same power to Anniston.

Leaders in both cities say Sunday alcohol sales would help their cities grow. Anniston’s mayor said Sunday sales could provide a boost to the city’s ambition to attract more ecotourism. The city is already host to a handful of well-known 5K and bicycle races, typically held on weekends.

Willis said Weaver, Anniston’s smaller neighbor, is more interested in expanding to take in existing businesses.

“For us, this is more about annexation than about the revenues from Sunday sales,” Willis said.

Weaver’s police jurisdiction includes a stretch of Alabama 21 between Jacksonville and Anniston, which is home to several businesses, including Heroes, a restaurant and brewpub.

Willis said Sunday sales in Weaver could encourage restaurants to annex into the city, boosting the city’s revenue.

Marsh has said he introduced both bills in deference to the Anniston and Weaver city councils. Both cities passed resolutions requesting the power to approve those sales.

The Anniston Sunday sales bill sailed quickly through the Senate. The Weaver bill awaits approval in Senate committee. But both are likely to die in the House unless local legislators change their minds.

“I don’t think we should build the economy on Sunday liquor sales,” said Rep. Randy Wood, R-Saks.

From the day the Anniston bill was introduced, Wood expressed misgivings about it. Now he says he’s in the “no” column on both bills.

To reach the floor of the House, a local bill must usually get the approval of every legislator representing the county affected by the bill. That gives every local legislator potential veto power over any local bill.

Rep. Steve Hurst, R-Munford, was the first to come out against both bills. Hurst, whose district doesn’t include Anniston but does include part of Calhoun County, said that as a matter of principle he couldn’t support expanding the use of alcohol on Sundays.

Rep. K.L. Brown, R-Jacksonville, has said he’d support the bill if both of Anniston’s representatives — Wood and Rep. Barbara Boyd, D-Anniston, — supported it. Wood’s opposition to both bills moved Brown to the “no” side.

“It’s not in my district, so I’m trying to stay out of it and support their decision,” he said.

Wood said he thought Sunday sales as an economic development tool was risky.

“What if tourism doesn’t work?” he said. If Sunday sales didn’t draw tourists, he said, the city could be left with a Sunday bar district.

Anniston Mayor Vaughn Stewart said tourism will work. There’s already significant interest in the city’s bike trails and races, he said.

“We will be Bike City, Alabama by June,” Stewart said. He said the city was beginning a strategic planning process that he hoped would lead to a campaign to re-brand the city as a bike haven.

That will happen whether or not there are Sunday sales, he said, but Sunday sales would help.

“It will help the economy as a whole, and it will help education,” he said, citing the expected increase in local sales taxes.

Lawmakers say Anniston’s leaders could have improved their chances of getting their bill passed it they’d done more to woo lawmakers before making the bill public.

“I like this new council,” Wood said. “They’re a breath of fresh air.” Still, he said, they could have conferred more extensively with the delegation before launching the bill.

“If they’d meet with us first, they’d know about any opposition,” he said. “They would have saved themselves some time.”

Stewart, who was elected last year, said he still hoped to convince legislators to pass the bill.

“We certainly didn’t intend to leave anyone out,” he said. “Hopefully we can all work together.”

Willis, of Weaver, said he’d talked to each of the legislators in the local delegation before the bill was introduced. Even so, he said, “We haven’t done any campaigning to get it passed.”

Willis said some legislators are unlikely to change their minds on alcohol sales no matter how much city leaders try to sway them.

“Either you’re a progressive thinker or you’re not,” he said. “The horse-and-buggy mentality that comes out of Montgomery has held us back for a long time.”

Capitol & statewide correspondent: 256-294-4193. On Twitter @TLockette_Star.

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