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Braves beer debate revived in waning days of session

Like the Braves' dramatic comeback to take the game into extra innings in the team's home opener this week, legislators are scoring some last-minute points for the proposal to allow alcohol sales on Sunday at the team's triple-A stadium under construction outside Lawrenceville.

But also like Monday's game, the results were pending by press time.

The bill to close a loophole that allows Sunday sales of beer only at stadiums within city limits virtually died last week when House members attached a provision for a statewide referendum on Sunday package sales.

But on Tuesday, senators were successful in attaching a provision to settle the local matter on another alcohol-related House bill. But the bill's sponsor, Rep. Ron Stephens, disagreed with the Senate version Wednesday. If the Senate insists on its version, the bill will go to a conference committee.

Rep. Bobby Reese, R-Sugar Hill, who expected to be assigned to the committee, said Stephens, who heads the House's economic development committee, was willing to approve the Gwinnett request, but he disagreed to work on language requested by the Speaker of the House for another alcohol-related provision. And the package sales controversy could always be revived.

That could spell trouble for Stephens' bill in general and for the Gwinnett provision as well.

"We may very well get the stadium bill out this year, but there is no guarantee," Reese said by telephone from the House floor during debates Wednesday. "It's dangerous times that's for sure."

Wednesday was the 38th day of the 2008 legislative session, and politicians are planning to wrap up their work by midnight Friday.

Balfour's Iran bill awaits governor's signature

A local legislator was able to get another pet project passed Wednesday.

The House overwhelmingly passed the "Protecting Georgia's Investment Act," proposed by Sen. Don Balfour, R-Snellville.

The bill, which stops officials from investing state retirement funds into companies making large investments in Iran, now goes to the Governor's desk to be signed into law.

"U.S. soldiers are being killed and maimed in Iraq and Afghanistan with IEDs and weapons provided by Iran to terrorists," Balfour said. "In my mind, the state of Georgia shouldn't be doing business with companies that are doing business in Iran. It is an unstable, pro-terrorist nation, and we shouldn't be risking our retirement funds there."

According to a press release, Georgia currently has $565,261,350 invested in companies, such as Royal Dutch Shell and Enersis SA, which are actively doing business in Iran. But Balfour said the average cumulative returns for energy companies not currently engaged in business with Iran, such as ExxonMobil or Hess, would be comparable.

"Some of our neighboring states like Florida have successfully enacted similar divestment legislation, and they haven't suffered any negative financial consequences," Balfour said. "I am confident that we won't see any drop in our investments, while at the same time we are sending a clear message, 'We will not willfully invest in anti-American countries that support terrorist activities.'"

Political Notebook appears in the Thursday and Sunday editions of the Gwinnett Daily Post.