Funny sometimes how generally accepted political wisdom can prove to be totally off the mark.
Once the Georgia General Assembly decided to allow local communities to vote on whether they would sell packaged alcohol on Sundays, pundits and experts alike predicted passionate and heated political battles would ensue over the ballot question.
Turns out, not so much.
Forsyth County and Cumming last week joined dozens of other communities in the state in approving Sunday sales by very one-sided margins, vote totals that many would have said were impossible just a few years ago.
Georgia had been one of only three states in the nation that did not allow package sale of alcohol on Sundays. Now there are only two.
For decades, the issue was a hot one in the state legislature, periodically coming up for discussion only to be quickly shot down as activists convinced lawmakers there was no support for such among the state’s population.
Former Gov. Sonny Perdue refused to consider the issue, but his successor was amenable to allowing local communities to make their own decisions on the topic.
Based on the referendums that have been held so far, you have to wonder just how much opposition there ever really was at the grassroots level, as one community after another has voted to allow Sunday sales by margins of 2-to-1 or greater, and the presence of organized opposition has been virtually non-existent.
Georgia has always had a patchwork quilt of alcohol laws, and will continue to do so as far as Sunday sales are concerned. In another year or two, most of the state’s communities likely will allow package sales on Sunday, but a few probably will choose not to do so, or simply won’t vote on the issue.
We expect that a few years down the road we will all be wondering why it was ever such a major bone of political contention in the first place.
Sunday sales aren’t likely to increase tax revenues, aren’t likely to increase the number of alcoholics, aren’t likely to dramatically change the nature of Sunday for most of the state’s residents one way or the other.
Those who used to stock up on Saturday night will be able to wait until Sunday to do so; those who didn’t aren’t likely to be affected one way or the other.
For Cumming and Forsyth County governments, the next step is to enact appropriate rules and ordinances. Once done, businesses that in the past have turned the lights out on the alcohol aisles on Sunday will be able to turn them on again, to the amazement of some of the state’s longtime political observers, who never thought they’d see the day.