Indy Star on 01/06/2016 by Amy Haneline and Tony Cook
The battle over Sunday alcohol sales for carryout is likely to return this year to the Indiana General Assembly.
House Public Policy Chairman Tom Dermody, R-LaPorte, told IndyStar on Wednesday that he has crafted a bill that will be revealed next week. He is waiting on final drafts.
“I do believe there is an opportunity for it to appear,” he said. “The goal is to at least have it heard in committee.”
Dermody’s role in crafting the measure is key because any alcohol-related legislation must make it through his committee before it can move to the full House for a vote.
The contents of the bill are unknown, but Dermody said lawmakers learned a lot from last year’s attempt, when Sunday sales legislation he introduced crashed and burned.
That effort, fueled by lobbying from big box grocery stores such as Kroger and Wal-Mart, brought the state closer than it has ever been to lifting the Prohibition-era ban.
But the powerful liquor store lobby – which fears that Sunday sales would shrink its share of the alcohol market – persuaded Dermody to file an amendment that would have required groceries, pharmacies and convenience stores to sell hard liquor from behind a counter and beer and wine to be located in a single aisle or separate room.
Those requirements suddenly turned the tables. Grocery stores, which have traditionally supported Sunday sales, began lobbying against the bill, which they said would inconvenience customers and require expensive store remodeling.
In the end, Rep. Dermody did not call the measure to a vote, saying that it did not have the votes to pass.
Lobbyists for liquor and grocery stores said this week they couldn’t comment on the legislation because they weren’t yet sure how Dermody’s bill might try to balance their competing interests.
“Last year brought great discussion,” Dermody said, “so we will have to see what happens this year … no predictions, though.”