INDIANAPOLIS — Two proposals that could dramatically change Indiana's alcohol sales environment will receive Senate committee hearings this month.
State Sen. Ron Alting, R-Lafayette, chairman of the Senate Public Policy Committee, confirmed Friday the panel will consider whether to approve separate measures authorizing Sunday retail alcohol purchases and allowing cold beer to be sold at businesses other than package liquor stores.
The Sunday sales legislation appears to be on the fast-track to passage. It not only is sponsored by Alting, but it also carries the Senate Bill 1 designation that's typically assigned to a proposal that Senate leadership considers the most important of the session.
Alting's plan mirrors the November recommendation of the Indiana Alcohol Code Revision Commission by allowing any liquor store, grocery store, convenience store, drug store or restaurant that currently sells alcohol for off-premises consumption Monday through Saturday to also sell on Sundays between noon and 8 p.m.
"Indiana is the only state in the nation with a statewide ban on the Sunday (retail) sale of alcohol," Alting said. "Times and public opinion on this matter have changed, and as author of SB 1, I think it is time that we make a concerted effort to pass that law here in Indiana."
Alting was less optimistic about Senate Bill 26, sponsored by state Sen. Phil Boots, R-Crawfordsville, that would end the liquor store monopoly on cold beer sales by allowing grocery, drug and convenience stores to also sell canned or bottled beer out of refrigerators.
That idea won a plurality of support on the Alcohol Code Revision Commission, but not enough to make it an official recommendation to the General Assembly — due in part to opposition by Alting and state Rep. Ben Smaltz, R-Auburn, chairman of the House Public Policy Committee.
Alting said he nevertheless is willing to give Boots' cold beer proposal its first committee hearing. Though Alting explained that he continues to be concerned about the dangers of expanding cold beer availability to more retail outlets.
"In an attempt to balance my personal views, the views of my constituents and the best interest of the state, I believe that holding a hearing on this issue is now appropriate," he said. "As with all bills presented in my committee, I will give it a fair hearing."
The Sunday sales hearing is scheduled for Wednesday afternoon in the Senate chamber. Cold beer will be before the committee Jan. 17.
Committee approval would be just the first step in the long process of making an Indiana law.
The proposal then would have to be endorsed by the full Senate, advance out of a House committee, pass the full House and have the different Senate and House versions reconciled and re-approved by both chambers to get to Gov. Eric Holcomb for his enactment signature or veto.