Sunday alcohol sales debate reaches a critical point at the Statehouse

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The debate over Sunday alcohol sales will reach a critical point Thursday.

Lawmakers have proposed new restrictions at big-box stores that could once again sideline the entire proposal.

But at least one state representative is expected to introduce an amendment that would no longer require liquor to be sold from behind the counter.

Those changes, approved by a House committee last week, had grocery stores immediately pulling their support of the bill, one they’ve lobbied for, which could derail this latest push.

Besides selling hard alcohol from behind the counter at drug and grocery stores, the amended version of the bill before the full House Thursday would also force big-box stores to eliminate self-checkout for alcohol and require beer and wine be sold in limited sections of the store.

“I know that’s been a concern of many,” State Rep. Tom Dermody (R-LaPorte) said, chair of the House Public Policy Committee. “So I look forward to seeing if any caucus members are going to come to me to discuss that, so I will look forward to that discussion as well.”

Other leading Republican lawmakers seems to be taking a harder line, including State Sen. Ron Alting (R-Lafayette), chairman of the Senate Public Policy Committee, which the bill would need to eventually pass through.

“If big-box don’t really think that it’s really worth Sunday sales to them, to put that behind the counter, then it must not mean a whole lot to them,” he said.

When asked Tuesday, Gov. Mike Pence wouldn’t say whether he would sign a Sunday alcohol sales bill into law.

“I don’t have a position on it,” he said. “And I’m aware that issue is being debated in the legislative process.”

House lawmakers are expected several amendments Thursday in the latest round of debate.

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