IN Focus: Sunday alcohol sales could face committee vote later this week

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UPDATE (January 27, 2016) – The House committee rejected the bill that would have permitted Sunday alcohol sales by a vote of 8-5.

INDIANAPOLIS (Jan. 24, 2016) – Another year, another attempt at Sunday alcohol sales at the Indiana Statehouse.

Lawmakers officially started the long-storied process last week when the House Public Policy committee held its first hearing on the bill.

“And there is a bit of a sense of déjà vu all over again,” Matt Bell said, a spokesperson for Big Red Liquors.

Committee members didn’t take a vote at the hearing last week.

Lawmakers said they need answer to several questions before an expected vote during their next committee hearing on Wednesday.

Under the new proposal in House Bill 1399, salesclerks would be required to be 21 years old and receive training. The measure would also restrict where grocery, convenient stores and pharmacies sell liquor.

Opponents of the measure argued that Sunday sales would lead to a rise in alcohol abuse statewide.

“This is why we regulate the sale of alcohol because it is a drug,” Bell said. “It is a drug that when it’s used illegally or irresponsibly devastates the lives of individuals, families and communities.”

Big-box grocery stores, which support the measure, want to capitalize on a busy Sunday shopping day, and argue the playing field should be leveled.

“You heard a lot of testimony today from package stores and others that were completely irrelevant,” John Elliott said, a spokesperson for Kroger. “If we’d been in a court of law, I would have been standing up and saying objection, relevance over and over again.”

State Rep. Tom Dermody, R-LaPorte, the bill’s author and committee chair, said the most controversial provision from last year, requiring hard liquor be sold from behind the counter, has been removed.

“I think the last couple of years, as I leave the legislature, this year it’s kind of my going away for something that Hoosiers have talked about for years,” he said.

But questions still remain about whether a bill can pass the General Assembly.

“You know I never know in public policy,” Dermody said. “You learn not to predict.”

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