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February 8, 2012

Some lawmakers want you to cruise in for Sunday commerce

Bill that would allow Sunday motorcycle sales clears House

INDIANAPOLIS — While advocates for Sunday carry-out alcohol sales have had a hard time making their case to legislators, opponents of another “blue law” may be on an easier road to success.

A bill that would roll back a decades-old ban on Sunday motorcycle sales has passed through the Indiana Senate and is picking up support in the House. Among the bill backers is Republican state Sen. Jean Leising, a Lawrenceburg grandmother who signed on as a co-author of the bill after she found out it’s a crime in Indiana to “engage in the business” of buying, selling or trading a motor vehicle on a Sunday.  

“Think about it: If I wanted to buy a motorcycle to ride to the Statehouse on Monday morning, technically it’s illegal for me to go a dealer on Sunday to negotiate the price,” she said.

Like the legislation that would repeal the prohibition on the Sunday sale of carry-out alcohol at grocery, drug and convenience stores, the motorcycle bill has stalled in past legislative sessions. They’re on a different track this year: Legislation that would repeal Indiana’s ban on Sunday alcohol carry-out sales couldn’t even get a committee hearing in the House or Senate.

The motorcycle bill — blocked in the past two years from getting the committee hearing needed to move a bill to a full vote — may be received more warmly. It passed out of the Senate commerce committee unanimously, got through the Senate with a 37-13 vote, and has been assigned to the House commerce committee for a hearing.

“It’s very difficult not to support something like this,” said state Sen. Ed Charbonneau, a Valparaiso Republican who authored the original bill.

He makes his case for the bill like this: “You can go to a dealer on a Sunday, and buy all the parts for a motorcycle, take those parts around back to the dealer’s service center, pay to have them put together, and that’s legal. But it’s a crime if you buy the motorcycle whole.”

Charbonneau said he’ll ask legislative leaders to assign a summer study committee to look at other “blue laws” that restrict commerce on Sundays.

The current ban on motorcycle sales is a remnant of Indiana’s old “blue laws” that prohibited various activities on Sundays. The legislature has been slowly chipping away at them.

In 1973, the Indiana legislature allowed alcohol to be sold by the drink for consumption at restaurants, bars, hotels and private clubs. It created additional exemptions in later years, including one for Indianapolis Colts games on Sundays.

But it’s held tight to the ban on carryout alcohol sales on Sunday.

Grant Monahan, who heads the Indiana Retail Council and represents the Alliance for Responsible Alcohol Retailers, has been part of the push to eliminate that prohibition.

He hasn’t given up, even though the Sunday alcohol sales bills were killed earlier in the session. He said he’s hopeful the language from those bills could be inserted into another piece of alcohol-related legislation that’s still alive.

It’s possible to do that this late in the legislative session, but not easy. Some lawmakers loathe to vote on a bill that didn’t get a hearing or committee approval.

Among them is state Sen. Ron Alting, a Lafayette Republican who heads the Senate public policy committee where the original Sunday carryout alcohol sales bill died. Alting said the issue of Sunday carry-out sales had “been debated to death” in past sessions. “There’s no sense in trying to re-start a fire that’s already been put out,” he said.

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