Erwin says Riley has a point on Shelby alcohol bill

Published 2:46 pm Wednesday, April 29, 2009

State Sen. Hank Erwin, R-Montevallo, says the governor has a point.

On Tuesday afternoon, Gov. Bob Riley vetoed legislation that would have allowed restaurants that sell alcohol on Sundays in Shelby County to continue to do so.

As it stands now, restaurants in Shelby County that sell alcohol on Sundays won’t be allowed to continue to do that after Sept. 30, when their club licenses expire.

The Sunday Shelby alcohol legislation was part of another bill sponsored by State Rep. Jimmy Martin, D-Clanton, which would have allowed residents of municipalities with fewer than 7,000 residents to vote on whether they wanted alcohol sales in their communities.

Riley said he vetoed the legislation, House Bill 175, because it “is unconstitutional in that it attempts to treat two different and distinct issues in one bill.”

Erwin said he thinks the governor is right.

“It was a novel approach, but it really needs to be two separate bills,” he said.

With only five days left in the session, Erwin said it is too late to introduce new legislation. He said House Bill 175 will come back before the House, which could vote to either sustain or override Riley’s veto.

Then, the State Senate would have to take up the measure.

Erwin said he thinks the legislation has only a 50-50 chance of being enacted this session.

“I think the governor has a point. He’s not taking this position because he has anything against the restaurants. He thinks it’s unconstitutional to attach two separate bills as one. I think that could cause more trouble down the road,” Erwin said.

Earlier this year, the Alabama Alcoholic Beverage Control Board changed its interpretation of regulations and reversed a long-time policy of allowing restaurants that operate Monday through Saturday with a retail restaurant license to operate on Sunday with a club license, which allows for alcohol sales.

State Rep. Cam Ward, R-Alabaster, thinks the governor’s veto will be overridden. In Alabama, only a simply majority is needed to successfully override the governor.

Ward said he disagrees with the governor’s reasoning behind his veto.

“I disagree with him on that interpretation. If he’s against alcohol sales, that’s one thing, but I disagree with him on the constitutionality,” he said.

“The purpose of this bill is not to address the dual licensing. The actual purpose was to allow smaller municipalities to vote on whether or not they want alcohol sales,” Ward said. “What the amendment to the bill did was maintain the status quo in Shelby County. There would be no additional alcohol sales.”