RICH JAMES: Indiana can't lick its mixed feelings on liquor

2013-02-17T00:00:00Z RICH JAMES: Indiana can't lick its mixed feelings on liquorBy Rich James nwitimes.com
February 17, 2013 12:00 am  • 

When Indiana went blue and voted for Barack Obama four years ago, I thought the state had crawled out of the Dark Ages.

Man, was I wrong.

With the election of ultra-conservative Mike Pence as governor and solid Republican majorities in both the House and Senate, it seems Indiana isn't ready for prime time.

That became evident when word spread that a bill to allow Sunday carryout sales of alcohol at grocery, convenience, drug and liquor stores was essentially dead.

House Public Policy Committee Chairman Rep. Bill Davis, R-Portland, has said he won’t allow a vote on the bill. This is the same guy who held a public hearing on the bill a couple weeks ago. I guess he was just playing with people.

The bill died for several reasons.

There are a good number of legislators representing the central Indiana Bible belt, home to a good number of social Neanderthals.

Religious leaders and addiction counselors opposed the bill during the public hearing. They expressed concern about underage consumption and binge drinking, both of which apparently are prohibited Monday through Saturday.

Another reason is that the package liquor store lobby doesn't want to have to open on Sunday. And they fear competition from other stores.

Given all that, I have yet to hear a valid reason for keeping the ban on the sale of carryout liquor on Sunday.

But there are several good reasons to bring Indiana up to speed with the rest of the nation.

First is the amount of money Indiana is losing to neighboring states on Sundays.

Visit the liquor stores just across the Illinois line on a Sunday and the majority of the cars in the lots have Hoosier plates. Illinois, not Indiana, is collecting the sales tax.

Another reason is for the convenience of Hoosiers.

While Sunday may mean going to church for many, it doesn't mean the world stops for the majority. Sunday has become the second busiest shopping day of the week.

Because more and more folks are busy Monday through Saturday trying to make ends meet, Sunday has become a prime day for grocery and chain stores. And because of time constraints, one-stop shopping has new meaning.

Statewide studies indicate that a case of cold beer costs more in a package liquor store than a grocery store, which can sell only warm beer.

And the best reason for Sunday carryout sales doesn't involve money.

Indiana essentially is telling Hoosiers it’s OK to go to a bar or restaurant and drive home under various stages of impairment.

But don’t even think about being able to buy booze for consumption at home. That might offend some people.

Rich James has been writing about state and local government and politics for more than 30 years. Email him at rjames@219.com. The opinions are the writer's.

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