House Bill 510, which passed the House on March 3, had its first reading on the Senate floor this morning. Sponsored by Rep. Calvin Smyre (D-Columbus), the bill is succinct – and a little vague:
Article 2 of Chapter 3 of Title 3 of the Official Code of Georgia Annotated, relating to 8 prohibited acts regarding alcoholic beverages, is amended by repealing and reserving 9 subsection (d) of Code Section 3-3-21, relating to sales of alcoholic beverages near churches, 10 school buildings, or other sites.
The Georgia Municipal Association offers a little more insight:
This bill would repeal a section of the alcoholic beverages code dealing with distance requirements in counties with populations between 175,000 and 195,000 residents. This bill would bring said counties under the same distance requirements as the rest of the state.
Right now, state law precludes anyone from serving liquor within 100 yards of a school, and 200 yards of a church, and beer and wine within 100 yards of any school or college campus (that’ll keep those rowdy college kids from getting their hands on a keg!) I have no idea why counties with populations within 175,000 and 195,000 had such specific ways to measure these distances – but if HB510 makes it through the Senate, Hall County, the only county to fall within that population range, will be just like Georgia’s other 158 counties.
Updated at 5:20 PM — A reader inquired why I referenced Hall County if all of HB 510’s sponsors are from Muscogee County. Candidly, I didn’t do a deep dive into the background of this bill. I skimmed a list this morning’s bills on the Senate floor and HB 510 caught my eye because distance requirements (and how they are measured) are an issue that come up regularly in municipal zoning issues. The county population requirement in subsection (d) of Code Section 3-3-21 was so specific that I wanted to find out which counties this bill impacted and from what I saw from the 2015 census numbers, HB 510 only impacted Hall.
Let’s get more specific, though. Subsection (d) specifies that its distance requirements are only for “counties having a population of not less than 175,000 nor more than 195,000, according to the United States decennial census of 1970 or any future such census.” According to the 2015 numbers I linked to above, Hall County was the only county to have a population that fell between 175,000 and 195,000 (if anyone knows why this came to be back in 1970, please share in the comments). Also in 2015, Muscogee County is listed as having a population of 200,579.
However, if you read the code’s language as specifying decennial census numbers, HB 510 only considers the numbers from the 2010 census, where Hall had a population of 179,684, and Muscogee’s population was 190,545.
So, if you’re looking at the most recent census estimates, HB 510 only impacts Hall. If you’re looking at the decennial 2010 census numbers, however, HB 510 impacts Hall and Muscogee Counties.