CHARLESTON — Liquor by the bottle could be sold on Sundays and, over a delegate’s warnings about a return to a shady old custom in West Virginia politics, on election days as well, in a bill revised Monday.

House Judiciary Committee panelists agreed to allow the sale of liquor after 1 p.m. on Sundays, and at any time on election day.

Changes came in Gov. Joe Manchin’s original measure that merely would allow free-standing liquor outlets to maintain a license when the 10-year renewal arrives by offering a minimum $250,000 bid, plus 10 percent.

In tinkering with it, the Senate wanted to remove the ban on Sunday and election day sales.

Delegate Alex Shook, D-Monongalia, successfully altered the bill so that liquor could be sold by the bottle after 1 p.m. Sunday.

Existing law only permits the sale of liquor by the drink on Sundays.

Shook said he found the existing prohibition “a silly, antiquated, and sometimes very annoying law.”

A fellow judiciary member, Delegate Mark Hunt, D-Kanawha, reminded him that the law was written in deference to Sunday worship services, and suggested he change the allowable sale time to 2 p.m., but then dropped the idea, so the 1 p.m. frame stuck.

Among members who voted for Shook’s proposed dramatic change in the liquor law were Delegates Bill Wooton and Sally Susman, both D-Raleigh, and Clif Moore, D-McDowell.

The committee shot down an amendment offered by Delegate Patti Schoen, R-Putnam, that would have restored the election day ban on bottle liquor sales.

Afterward, Shook said he didn’t view the Sunday sales as “a big deal.”

Not, he contended, when the state already allows for the sale of beer and wine, adding all such alcoholic beverages should be regarded the same.

Disagreeing with that, Delegate Kelli Sobonya, R-Cabell, said she opposes any effort to expand either liquor or gambling statutes.

“I’m here to try to do what the will of the people is,” she said. “And that is to try to create a positive business climate so that we can create jobs and keep our young people here. This doesn’t fall under that category.”

Sobonya especially found the revised bill allowing bottled liquor to be sold on election days distasteful.

In the past, many a vote was bought in West Virginia with a half pint of booze, and some lawmakers suggested the bill would revive that illegal practice.

“For many years — decades — the sale of liquor was prohibited on election day,” the delegate said. “And for good reason, all the trading of liquor for votes.”

— E-mail:

mannix@register-herald.com

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