One bill drawing statewide attention was SB-10, allowing for a local vote to decide Sunday alcohol sales. Currently, it is illegal to purchase packaged alcohol on Sundays but that may change as the Sunday sales bill was revived after being idled in the session and approved in the Senate Wednesday sending it to the House.
"When we took the poll the first time within the caucus, it was decisive that there were not enough votes to pass it," said State Sen. Barry Loudermilk, R-Cassville. "Over time I saw several constituents get in touch with their representatives and while many don't want Sunday sales they are amenable to putting it on the ballot."
That's what happened locally as Loudermilk received communication from citizens on the controversial bill which he remained indecisive on as a public servant yet personally opposed to. After deliberating the issue, Loudermilk cast a vote in favor of approving the bill. The final tally was 32-22 with Bartow legislator, State Sen. Bill Heath, R-Bremen, voting against the measure. Heath did not return calls by press time.
"I'd say contacts were probably 20 to one in favor of putting it on the ballot. It's definitely something we paid attention to. I was undecided through most of all this because personally I would rather not have Sunday sales of alcohol at all. I would like to see us keep hold of some of our Christian values, but at the same time I am a strong advocate for less government intervention," Loudermilk said. "In the end, I erred on the side of less government instead of just personal preference and I received e-mails from some people today who were disappointed with the vote but many of those I never heard from beforehand."
Arguments for changing the law to allow for Sunday sales have included the irony seen in Sunday alcohol sales by the drink. Alcoholic beverages can now, where local ordinances permit, be purchased on Sunday in bars and restaurants. Walter Mahone, owner of Cartersville Beverage Company, expressed his thought on the current situation.
"It doesn't make much sense to me right now. You can go to a bar or a restaurant and drink all day and drive home but you can't go to a store and buy and take it home and drink it. That doesn't make a lot of sense," Mahone said.
Although some argue that allowing for package sales on Sunday will increase demand and boost revenue for small business owners, Mahone, feels the bill, if passed and voted into law, will have little to no effect on sales.
"I've been opposed to it all along. We need a day off. We don't need to work seven days a week," Mahone said. "It just means we'll have to stay open an extra day. I don't think we'll make anymore business, I think it'll just be spread out."
Mahone added if the bill is approved by the House and signed into law by the governor, with surrounding counties voting to adopt the law, Bartow should follow suit in order to not lose business to nearby areas allowing for Sunday sales.
Loudermilk saw many other bills on the hectic crossover day, one of those he sponsored himself. SB-210 is a pro-life bill aimed at tightening regulations already in place at abortion clinics by empowering women. The bill looks at the woman's legal rights to recourse if the clinic does not follow current laws.
"This bill simply gives a woman the right to take civil action against an abortion clinic if an abortion was conducted in violation of state law," Loudermilk said. "In the state of Georgia there is no standing for her to take any legal action unless the District Attorney takes a criminal prosecution against the abortion clinic for violating law."
Laws being specifically targeted are those mandating an informed consent by the woman. Procedures to be followed by the clinic were placed to educate the patient on the decision.
"Right now if a woman seeks an abortion there are numerous laws in Georgia that regulate how an abortion can be given. One of which was the Woman's Right to Know that was passed, I think, in 2006," Loudermilk said. "We know through testimony that many abortion clinics are not abiding by that law and one portion of that law is that a woman has to be given a 24-hour waiting period when she first contacts the clinic about the abortion and she has to be given specific information.
"Where it's been done in other states, it has really cut down on the number of abortions because it allows the woman to see that that is a living, breathing human inside of her, not just a blob of cells."
Loudermilk also sponsored a bill approved last week to extend the rights of concealed carry permit holders. The bill passed with a "decisive" 43-10 vote.
Major legislation yet to be seen includes tax reform which Loudermilk believes may not be seen this year due to its timing. The looming budget, however, is expected to appear on the floor within the next two weeks.