ATLANTA – Georgians are one step closer to being able to order a mimosa on Sunday mornings.
The state House of Representatives backed a proposal Monday that allows communities to decide whether to start popping the cork at restaurants and wineries at 11 a.m. – which is an hour and a half earlier than currently allowed in Georgia.
The measure – called the “Brunch Bill” – has already cleared the Senate, so this means it moves on now to Gov. Nathan Deal’s desk. If the governor signs the bill, local governments would have to call a referendum to allow for earlier Sunday sales.
“You are not voting to roll back Sunday sales,” Rep. Meagan Hanson, R-Brookhaven, told lawmakers Monday. “You are voting to allow your voters to decide if they want to roll back Sunday sales to begin at 11 a.m.”
Hanson said the change could pave the way for $100 million in additional sales, sending about $11 million in new tax revenue to the state and local governments. The measure has the support of the Georgia Restaurant Association and others.
Rep. Dominic LaRiccia, R-Douglas, argued state law already allows the drinks to flow all day nearly every day, with the exception of a few hours that were carved out years ago in respect to churchgoers.
“If you have six and a half days, 107 hours of drinking with only four and a half hours prohibited, I’m asking you – no, I am begging you – to vote no against this measure and just let us have those four and a half hours,” he said.
LaRiccia, who is a Sunday school teacher and deacon at his Baptist church, was among the dozens who objected to the change. The final vote was 97 to 64.
“I don’t know if $100 million is enough to give up what we give up with this bill,” said Rep. Al Williams, D-Midway.
Rep. John LaHood, R-Valdosta, said he voted against the proposal because he never heard a compelling case for the change.
“I’m sure restaurant owners would like the option to serve sooner, but I didn’t hear from any of them in my district or anywhere,” LaHood said afterwards.
The floor debate also brought one of the most memorable exchanges of this legislative session.
“Adam and Eve had ‘local control’ in the Garden of Eden and bit that fruit and it was the fall of humanity and we keep taking a bite out of that apple,” LaRiccia said from the House floor.
“Is it not true that one of the first miracles was Jesus turning water into wine?” Rep. Erica Thomas, D-Austell, who voted for the bill, said in response.
“Is it not true that Jesus didn’t turn water into wine on Sunday morning?” LaRiccia retorted.
Jill Nolin covers the Georgia Statehouse for The Valdosta Daily Times, CNHI's newspapers and websites.