INDIANAPOLIS — The Hoosier State's longstanding ban on Sunday retail alcohol sales is on the verge of becoming nothing more than a memory.
The Indiana House on Tuesday voted 82-10 to permit retailers who sell alcohol for off-premises consumption six days a week to also sell on Sundays between noon and 8 p.m. local time.
Senate Bill 1 now returns to the Senate to see if lawmakers there consent to a House amendment that put an immediate effective date on the legislation, instead of the traditional July 1 start for new Indiana laws.
If approved, as expected, by the Senate, that means Sunday sales would begin on the first Sunday after Gov. Eric Holcomb signs the proposal into law, as he has pledged to do.
State Rep. Ben Smaltz, R-Auburn, the chairman of the House Public Policy Committee and sponsor of the measure, said he saw no reason why Hoosiers should have to wait until July 1 to finally be able to purchase carry-out alcohol on Sundays.
"Normally we allow some time for communities to learn about the new law and for people to understand the change," Smaltz said. "But I think everybody gets this one. This isn't something that's very complicated at all."
State Rep. Charlie Brown, D-Gary, who is ending his Statehouse tenure in November after 36 years, said he was pleased that Sunday sales, which has popped up in one form or another for decades, is nearing final approval.
"This would be the one bill that's been around here almost as long as I have," Brown said to laughter from his fellow representatives.
State Rep. Tom Washburne, R-Inglefield, credited Smaltz's constant efforts to prevent the Sunday sales legislation from getting loaded up with tangential alcohol-related provisions for the seeming ease with which it passed the House.
"Chairman Smaltz has done his homework really well. I don't know anyone who is here later than him," Washburne said. "It doesn't seem like an earth-shattering issue, but it's a vexing issue."
Smaltz agreed Sunday sales certainly isn't the most urgent matter that Indiana lawmakers are working on this year. But he said it still is important because it gives Hoosiers something they've been demanding for many years.
Jon Sinder, chairman of the Indiana Association of Beverage Retailers, said its liquor store members are eager to serve their customers on Sundays, just as they do every other day of the week.
"Package liquor stores are already preparing for this eventual conclusion by updating work schedules and when necessary hiring, training and licensing new employees that attain our strict safety standards per Indiana law," Sinder said.
"We are excited for Sunday sales and will be ready to open our doors."
Indiana is the only state in the country that still prohibits all retail alcohol sales on Sundays.