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 appointment.
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 boost.
“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.”