INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Supporters of ending Indiana's longtime ban on Sunday
retail alcohol sales are hoping a change in leadership of a key
legislative committee has improved their chances of success.
That change is the appointment of Republican Rep. Tom Dermody of LaPorte
as chairman of the House Public Policy Committee following the resignation
of previous chairman Rep. Bill Davis of Portland. Davis resigned from the
Legislature last month to accept Gov. Mike Pence's appointment as director
of the Indiana Office of Community and Rural Affairs.
That House committee held a hearing during this year's legislative session
on lifting the Sunday ban, but Davis refused to bring it up for a vote.
Dermody's selection by House Speaker Brian Bosma to lead the committee has
Sunday sales supporters seeing a new opening.
"I think the selection of Rep. Dermody to chair the public policy
committee is a positive development for those of us in support of Sunday
sales," said Grant Monahan, president of the Indiana Retail Council, which
has long pushed for lifting of the ban.
Indiana is the only state that prohibits retail carryout sales of beer,
wine and liquor on Sundays, according to the Distilled Spirits Council of
the United States.
Liquor store owners have opposed lifting the Sunday ban, arguing the
change would benefit large chain grocery and convenience stores that don't
face age restrictions on who can enter and don't have the same requirement
of hiring clerks with state liquor licenses.
Dermody told The Indianapolis Star that he hasn't made any decisions about
the issue, but is committed to hearing from both sides.
"I'm going to know a lot more in the next 40 days," Dermody said,
referring to the start of the 2014 legislative session on Jan. 6. "The one
thing I can tell you is we're going to start on time and each side will
get a fair hearing."
Dermody pushed an Indiana Retail Council-backed measure this year that
would've sped up when Amazon.com would start collecting the state's 7
percent sales tax for online sales. That provision passed the House, but
failed in the Senate.
Lifting the ban could continue to face a roadblock in the Senate, where
Sen. Ron Alting, R-Lafayette, has also declined to take action on the
proposal in the Public Policy Committee he leads.
Patrick Tamm, president of the Indiana Association of Beverage Retailers,
which represents liquor stores, said he's not worried about Dermody's
New committee chairmen "always take a fresh perspective on things," but
that doesn't necessarily mean anything is going to change, he said.
Sen. Phil Boots, R-Crawfordsville, expects to introduce a Senate bill
lifting the Sunday sales ban. Boots said Dermody's appointment was a
"I haven't had any discussions with him, but I think he's potentially more
receptive than the previous chairman," Boots said. "... I'm optimistic,
but I'm not confident. I'm hopeful."