Dermody might be General Assembly wild card

Back to TopCommentsE-mailPrintBookmark and Share

Rep. Tom Dermody, R-La Porte, says he doesn’t mind being tagged as a wild card. He’ll take it as a compliment that people say they never know how he’s going to vote.

“I don’t always agree with leadership, and they don’t always agree with me,” said Dermody, the newly appointed chairman of the House Committee on Public Policy. “But that’s why I respect [House Speaker] Brian Bosma so much. Even if we disagree, we can have an honest and truthful conversation.”

dermody Dermody, a LaPorte Republican, replaces Bill Davis of Portland, who stopped votes on some alcohol issues.

(IBJ Photo/Eric Learned)

The Committee on Public Policy deals with all legislation pertaining to the business of vice, and in recent years the panel has mostly put a cork in attempts to let the vices spread.

But the alcohol and gambling industries could be in for a bit more favorable consideration when the General Assembly reconvenes Jan. 6 for a quick 10-week session, as new chairman Dermody will likely apply more of a free-market approach than his predecessor.

The Public Policy Committee also could be tasked with House Joint Resolution 6, the high-profile marriage amendment.

Last session, for the first time, the committee dedicated a hearing to Sunday carry-out alcohol sales and also considered expanding cold beer sales to grocery and convenience stores.

Although the chairman, Rep. Bill Davis, R-Portland, who has since retired, declined to let members cast a vote on the alcohol issues, merely giving them a hearing was considered progress by those who hope to end Indiana’s distinction as the only remaining state to prohibit all Sunday alcohol sales.

“We heard a lot of testimony on the effect those additional sales would have on youth,” recalled Davis, who now works for the Lieutenant Governor’s Office. “The most abused drug in Indiana is alcohol.”

The committee in 2013 was also assigned a bill to allow live table games at Hoosier Park Racing & Casino in Anderson and Indiana Grand Racing and Casino in Shelbyville, but Davis declined to let the committee vote on what was portrayed as gambling expansion.

Whether or not Chairman Dermody finds himself inclined to be a bit more activist, he will be limited by the calendar.

“Being a newbie, the short session is probably an advantage to Tom,” said Rep. Phil GiaQuinta, D-Fort Wayne, the ranking minority member on the public policy panel. “The committee obviously hears some highly emotional issues, and if they’re going to take a lot of time to hash out, he may decide to wait until next year.”

In fact, alcohol sales could be off the table completely in the new year—for the same reason legislative leaders during the 2013 session passed on addressing HJR6.

The Legislature generally doesn’t deal with issues in litigation, said ex-chairman Davis. In May, a trade association representing convenience stores filed a lawsuit against the state in federal court seeking to strike down regulatory restrictions on the sale of cold beer by convenience marts and groceries.

All the alcohol issues “run together,” said Davis, because policy changes that benefit certain retail sectors come at the economic expense of others. For example, Sunday carryout and cold beer sales could be a bottom-line boon to grocery stores and gas stations, yet likely hurt liquor stores.

The same principle holds true in gambling, where the addition of live table games to the racinos would perhaps siphon business from French Lick Resort Casino.

“Whether it’s the gambling or alcohol industry, or anything that has a big economic impact on the state, anytime you start moving those things around or discussing those, there’s going to be an impact to somebody else,” GiaQuinta said.

Big-picture background

Dermody should have no problem seeing the big picture given his time serving on the House Committee on Ways and Means. As chairman of the subcommittee on higher education, he earned a positive reputation for bringing all parties to the table during work on student financial aid reform, including public, private and for-profit institutions.

His older brother, Jim, a superintendent for the New Prairie United School Corp., reminds him almost daily that it’s easy to pass laws in Indianapolis.

“You have to make sure you listen to the people in the trenches so you know what the effects will be,” Tom Dermody said.

dermodyDermody owns TCB Manufacturing, which makes insulated food delivery bags, employing 75-80 people at two locations in La Porte and South Bend.

He also co-chairs the General Assembly’s Small Business Caucus, which held a series of town hall meetings across the state this year with the National Federation of Independent Business.

“I believe in the free market,” Dermody said. “We’ll see what bills come to us in what form. I’ll have plenty of opportunity to start delving into specific issues once they’re assigned to committee.

“I look forward to speaking with both sides of the issues,” he added. “That’s very important to me—especially those you don’t agree with or those that don’t agree with you.”

Competitive blood

Dermody grew up in La Porte and attended Purdue University on a baseball scholarship. He graduated in 1988 with a degree in what’s now known as technology and leadership innovation, and his first job was in sales for a recreational vehicle company in Elkhart.

His wife, Jackie, is a daughter of Sen. Jim Arnold, D-La Porte, the ranking minority member on the Senate Committee on Public Policy.

“We’re the only father-in-law/son-in-law combination in the history of the General Assembly,” Dermody said.

His daughter, Katie, is a senior at La Porte High School and captained the soccer team, and his son, Ben, is quarterback for the freshman football team.

Tom and his brother each were three-sport athletes growing up.

“We’re all very competitive,” Tom said. The annual Dermody family Thanksgiving basketball game at Jim’s house is “a battle royale.”

Tom Dermody is also far and away the most talented basketball player in the General Assembly, as evidenced by his dominant play in the annual Democratic-Republican pickup game at Hinkle Fieldhouse. (Dermody could also win a Tom Crean look-alike contest.)

Dermody’s closest friend in the House is Rep. Sean Eberhart, R-Shelbyville. The two graduated from Purdue the same year, they both own businesses, and both are members of the 2006 class of the General Assembly.

They also share an office on the fourth floor of the Statehouse. In 2013, Eberhart authored the controversial measures to allow Sunday carryout alcohol sales and live table games at the racinos.

The speaker of the House has typically given committee chairs latitude in determining which bills are heard and voted on, and in what order, said ex-chairman Davis.

“Once a bill has been assigned, Speaker Bosma has been very good about allowing the committees to do their work. He believes that most of the work on a bill should be done in committee, not on the House floor. Committee chairs at least in the Republican-led House have a lot of discretion,” Davis said.

Dermody said he tends to make decisions based on what he thinks is best for his district and the state, not necessarily what’s best for the party.

“Hopefully, the speaker knows I will work hard,” he said. “I will not be out-worked.”•


  • Merry Christmas Bill!
    Lighten up, poindexter.
  • Right
    What a bunch of republican rhetoric written in a strictly republican news paper about a guy who votes the way he's told.

    Post a comment to this story

    We reserve the right to remove any post that we feel is obscene, profane, vulgar, racist, sexually explicit, abusive, or hateful.
    You are legally responsible for what you post and your anonymity is not guaranteed.
    Posts that insult, defame, threaten, harass or abuse other readers or people mentioned in IBJ editorial content are also subject to removal. Please respect the privacy of individuals and refrain from posting personal information.
    No solicitations, spamming or advertisements are allowed. Readers may post links to other informational websites that are relevant to the topic at hand, but please do not link to objectionable material.
    We may remove messages that are unrelated to the topic, encourage illegal activity, use all capital letters or are unreadable.

    Messages that are flagged by readers as objectionable will be reviewed and may or may not be removed. Please do not flag a post simply because you disagree with it.

    Sponsored by

    facebook - twitter on Facebook & Twitter

    Follow on TwitterFollow IBJ on Facebook:
    Follow on TwitterFollow IBJ's Tweets on these topics:
    Subscribe to IBJ
    1. I am a Lyft driver who is a licensed CDL professional driver. ALL Lyft drivers take pride in providing quality service to the Indianapolis and surrounding areas, and we take the safety of our passengers and the public seriously.(passengers are required to put seat belts on when they get in our cars) We do go through background checks, driving records are checked as are the personal cars we drive, (these are OUR private cars we use) Unlike taxi cabs and their drivers Lyft (and yes Uber) provide passengers with a clean car inside and out, a friendly and courteous driver, and who is dressed appropriately and is groomed appropriately. I go so far as to offer mints, candy and/or small bottle of water to the my customers. It's a mutual respect between driver and passenger. With Best Regards

    2. to be the big fish in the little pond of IRL midwest racin' when yer up against Racin' Gardner

    3. In the first sentance "As a resident of one of these new Carmel Apartments the issue the local governments need to discuss are build quality & price." need a way to edit

    4. As a resident of one of these new Carmel Apartments the issue the local governments need to discuss is build quality & price. First none of these places is worth $1100 for a one bedroom. Downtown Carmel or Keystone at the Crossing in Indy. It doesn't matter. All require you to get in your car to get just about anywhere you need to go. I'm in one of the Carmel apartments now where after just 2.5 short years one of the kitchen cabinet doors is crooked and lawn and property maintenance seems to be lacking my old Indianapolis apartment which cost $300 less. This is one of the new star apartments. As they keep building throughout the area "deals" will start popping up creating shoppers. If your property is falling apart after year 3 what will it look like after year 5 or 10??? Why would one stay here if they could move to a new Broad Ripple in 2 to 3 years or another part of the Far Northside?? The complexes aren't going to let the "poor" move in without local permission so that's not that problem, but it the occupancy rate drops suddenly because the "Young" people moved back to Indy then look out.

    5. Why are you so concerned about Ace hardware? I don't understand why anyone goes there! Every time ive gone in the past, they don't have what I need and I end up going to the big box stores. I understand the service aspect and that they try to be helpful but if they are going to survive I think they might need to carry more specialty parts.