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Stadium beer issue unclear

LAWRENCEVILLE - A day after legislators battled the clock to change state alcohol laws to allow the selling of beer on Sundays at the planned Gwinnett stadium, officials were unsure if the matter was taken care of.

Rep. Bobby Reese, R-Sugar Hill, who served on a conference committee when the local provisions were added to another alcohol-related bill, said the legislation passed before the midnight deadline for the end of the General Assembly session, but officials later questioned whether it would solve the problem.

County Administrator Jock Connell said officials would likely not get a clear answeron the bill until Monday, which must be signed by the governor before it becomes law.

But officials have said the county could likely use other legal loopholes to allow Sunday sales at the 10,000-seat stadium for the Gwinnett Braves, a minor league team moving from Richmond, Va. for the 2009 season.

"I think the beer sales was never a real problem for me. If it worked out, that was fine; if it didn't work out, that was fine," Chairman Charles Bannister said, noting that a contract signed last week shows that the revenues from concessions will go to the Braves and not the county.

But Bannister, who spent nearly two decades serving in the General Assembly himself, said he was disappointed that lawmakers did not reach an agreement on a penny sales tax to fund transportation projects.

"We really, really need some help with transportation dollars," he said.

Reese voted against the measure, which passed in the House but was three votes shy of passage in the Senate. He said legislators would continue to work on the proposal until the General Assembly convenes for a new session in January.

He described the 2007-08 session as "frustrating," with frequent fights between House Speaker Glenn Richardson, Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle and other leaders.

But the local legislative delegation was able to secure $8.6 million to construct a life sciences building at Gwinnett Technical College and to complete a county initiative to clarify the law to allow the transfer of development rights, which some say could help preserve greenspace in Gwinnett.

Thanks to the delegation, voters are likely to reconsider the use of tax allocation districts for redevelopment in unincorporated Gwinnett County, a measure that failed in 2006. After nine cities adopted the funding method last year, the cities of Lawrenceville and Snellville will also hold referenda this election cycle, if the governor signs legislation.

"I think our delegation did us pretty good, and I want to thank them for their help," Bannister said.