INDIANAPOLIS — The chances Indiana will legalize Sunday retail alcohol sales increased significantly Monday when Senate Republican leaders announced the measure is one of their top priorities for the 2018 legislative session.
Senate President David Long, R-Fort Wayne, said Senate Bill 1, which permits carry-out alcohol sales between noon and 8 p.m. on Sundays, isn't the most important proposal of the year — but "its time has come."
"It seems there's a consensus building around that in the private sector among all the players and certainly the (Alcohol Code Revision) commission believed that this summer, so it recognizes that," Long said.
He declared the most important issues are workforce development and education, which also top the Senate GOP agenda, as well as fixing the Department of Child Services, which Long said likely will wait until 2019 after an outside review of the agency is finished.
Concerning workforce, Long indicated that Senate Bill 50, incentivizing companies to participate in worker training efforts, and Senate Bill 172, requiring all schools offer a computer science course by 2021, are needed to maintain Indiana's competitive business climate.
He said those measures work in conjunction with Senate Bill 189, increasing education funding by some $17 million to account for greater-than-expected public school enrollment, and Senate Bill 177, reducing Indiana's four high school diplomas to one to comply with federal education requirements.
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Senate Republicans also plan to combat the opioid drug epidemic by phasing in a requirement in Senate Bill 221 that all doctors verify their patients haven't recently been prescribed opioids by another medical professional.
"We do hope this will help to curb the over-prescribing of these very addictive drugs," state Sen. Erin Houchin, R-Salem, said.
In addition, the GOP caucus wants to alter civil forfeiture laws in Senate Bill 99 to balance law enforcement interests with the constitutional rights of property owners accused of misusing their homes, vehicles and other items for criminal purposes.
"Indiana has made great strides over the last decade, but as our world continues to change, there will always be ways for us to improve upon the work done here at the Statehouse on behalf of Hoosiers," Long said.
"There is a lot of work to be done in the coming months on all of these issues, but our caucus is ready to take on those challenges."
Republicans control 41 of the 50 seats in the Indiana Senate.