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December 18, 2013

KITCHELL: Will GOP become state's 'tea-totaler' party?

(Continued)

There’s also the moral obligation to cut off drinkers who don’t know when to stop, either because they can’t or won’t. Last call on Saturday night is a time for responsible bartenders and tavern owners to make sure their good customers return — to keep them sober enough to drive home or to call a cab. If Sunday sales are permitted, last call may become a thing of the past as drinkers continue their partying through the night and into Sundays.

This issue poses a moral argument for Republicans and a Republican governor who have the power to include the item in their legislative priority lists. By making Sunday liquor sales available in stores such as Target, Marsh and Kroger, legislators and Gov. Mike Pence could be doing retailers a favor, but consumers a disservice. There is some irony, too, in the fact that state police and public safety coalitions are again running commercials reminding drivers that if they are over the limit, they will be under the arrest. Those same commercials will likely end after the holiday season, just when the Legislature will convene for the 2014 session.

This is an issue that will divide Republicans and likely Democrats as well, particularly because increased liquor sales will mean increased sales tax revenue. We all know how much state officials love to see that kind of news in a revenue forecast.

It also will be interesting to see how many legislators will include this issue on their district surveys of constituents. This issue is one that likely will be decided by public input, outrage and support. Church groups, the Mothers Against Drunken Driving, Students Against Drunken Driving and organizations such as the Indiana State Police Alliance, the Indiana Sheriffs Asspciation, the Fraternal Order of Police and other groups may want to weigh in on this issue.

Meanwhile, the Republicans who have been known to include the Tea Party under their tent may be looking at their party in 2014 and wondering if this issue will define them as allowing liquor sales for the sake of the economy or limiting liquor sales for the sake of tea-totalers.

Dave Kitchell is a columnist for the Pharos-Tribune. He can be reached at ptnews@pharostribune.com.

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