Lawmakers debate Sunday alcohol sales 

By Olivia Covington

click to enlarge PHOTO BY FLICKR USER XLIBBER
  • Photo by Flickr user xlibber

The House Public Policy Committee heard hours of conflicting testimony Wednesday on legislation to permit retail sales of alcohol on Sundays but lawmakers postponed a vote on the controversial bill.

Rep. Sean Eberhart, R-Shelbyville, said he authored the bill because opinions on the law have changed and Hoosiers are ready to allow stores to sell alcohol on Sunday.

"I've had people come up to me and say, 'It's about time.' Indiana needs to get with the times," Eberhart said.

Eberhart and other supporters of the bill, including Rep. Terri Austin, D-Pendleton, argued that allowing liquor stores, drug stores and grocery stores to sell alcohol seven days a week would increases tax revenues by $10 billion a year.

Now, proponents said, much of that revenue leaves Indiana and enters neighboring states, all of which allow alcohol to be sold on Sundays. That's money local retailers lose.

Opponents of the bill said there is no data to support the claim of an increase in revenue because of seven day alcohol sales. A fiscal analysis presented to the committee during testimony on the bill did not show any increase in revenue if the bill were to pass.

Proponents also argued that eliminating restrictions on alcohol sales would lead to an increase in liquor stores throughout Indiana. Eberhart cited a statistic saying nine out of 10 stores saw no change or an increase in liquor stores once alcohol sales were permitted on Sunday.

"This bill is not meant to threaten an industry. It simply makes a change that a majority of Hoosiers want," Eberhart said.

Opponents said 25 percent of liquor stores would go out of business if consumers can purchase alcohol from convenience or grocery stores any day of the week. Colorado, which recently passed a similar bill, saw a decrease in liquor stores across the state once the bill was passed.

Supporters' biggest argument was that the sale of alcohol on Sunday is permitted in public places, such as bars and restaurants. Additionally, purchasing cigarettes, gambling or going to hookah bars is not restricted to six days a week. Restricting the sale of alcohol, they said, is ambiguous.

"Indiana has the most contradictory alcohol law in the nation," Eberhart said.

While opponents did not say that the current law is unambiguous, they did counter the argument that Indiana's law is the most ambiguous, citing South Carolina as another state that allows alcohol to be sold in restaurants on Sunday but not in stores.

Indiana is currently one of only 12 states who continue to keep this law on the books.

Olivia Covington is a reporter for TheStatehouseFile.com, a news service powered by Franklin College journalism students and faculty.

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