Legislature Gets Ever Closer to Approving the Brunch Bill

Mar 10, 2016

A bill to bump up alcohol sales on Sundays from 1 p.m. to 10 a.m. is moving in the House even after Speaker Tim Armstead said it wasn’t a priority this session. Businesses across the state have cried out for the bill’s approval, calling it an economic development measure.

Earlier this week, House Judiciary amended Senate Bill 298 in committee; a bill that has been affectionately referred to as the “brunch bill” to include a provision requiring county voters approve of the time change through a referendum. 

As approved by the Judiciary Committee, the bill would not require county commissioners to hold elections to allow the sales, only permit such measures on a ballot. 

The full House voted on the amendment to the bill Thursday, but with some debate.

Democrat Isaac Sponaugle of Pendleton County spoke in opposition to the change.

“Now we are trying to run it back down and have all 55 counties put a referendum vote on whether to decide or not we’re going to have sale of alcohol at restaurants from 10 to 1 a.m.," Sponaugle said, "We’re just moving it back three hours. I believe this body is fully capable of making a decision for the entire state of whether or not we’re going to move the drinking time back three hours without putting on the ballot in all 55 counties.”

Vice Chairman of Judiciary, Delegate Patrick Lane of Kanawha County spoke in favor of the amendment and said what passed in the Senate would likely not pass in the House.

“I certainly understand the point made from my friend from the 55th; however, I would suggest that regardless of what the form was in when it passed the Senate, I would suggest to you that if you are interested in having a brunch bill that this is the form that ought to be adopted, because I would suggest that while it may have been unanimous or close to it in the Senate, it would be very far from unanimous or close to  it in the House, so if you prefer to have this bill at all, I would suggest adoption of the Judiciary amendment,” Lane explained.

The amendment passed 58 to 38.

Senate Bill 298 will be up for a vote in the House Friday.

The county referendum was not a part of the bill as approved in the Senate so if approved in the House, it will have to return to the Senate for further consideration. The bill’s lead sponsor, Senator Chris Walters, has said he would prefer the bill allowed counties to opt out of the Sunday morning sales, but there is no official word from Senate leadership that the change will be considered.