Lawmakers take another swing at legalizing Sunday alcohol sales in Indiana

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INDIANAPOLIS (Jan. 20, 2016) – Another year, another attempt at Sunday alcohol sales in Indiana.

Lawmakers officially started the long-storied process Wednesday 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 vote Wednesday. Lawmakers said they need answer to several questions before an expected vote next week.

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

Opponents of the measure argued Wednesday 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.”

Rep. Tom Dermody (R-LaPorte), the bill’s author, 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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