Opponents of HB
1247 were encouraged to think, when they testified on Monday before the
Senate Public Policy Committee, that their statements against the bill were
being heard by open minds genuinely troubled by the precedent which
greenlighting HB 1247 might set.
citizens, in fact, made the trip to Indy to testify, but for all the good it
did they may as well have stayed home.
On Wednesday the
committee went ahead and gave a nod to the idea of overriding local
consensus in favor of a centralized bureaucratic mandate, by first appending
HB 1247 as an amendment to another piece of legislation--HB 1386--then
voting 7-2 to approve the combined bill.
Dunes Action is now
vowing to battle against HB 1386--another alcohol bill, as it happens--as it
goes to the Senate floor for a vote.
“We were hopeful
that once our senators heard the facts, they would decide to do the right
thing,” said Norm Hellmers, one of the members of Dunes Action who testified
on Monday. “Instead, they voted to advance a bill that chips away at our
rights, overrides a public process, and gives special privileges to one
company that has a lease with the DNR.”
“In spite of DNR
claims, not one ordinary citizen was there to testify that they want alcohol
at the Dunes or any other state park,” Hellmers added. “Their only witnesses
were business groups and lobbyists. The DNR failed to back up their
statements with any meaningful evidence.”
“Not one legislator
at the committee hearing disagreed that House Bill 1247 would eliminate
local input and control over the alcohol permitting process being proposed
for the Indiana DNR,” said Desi Robertson, also a member of Dunes Action.
“The only question was whether or not they would ultimately override the
will of Indiana's communities, and today their vote answered that question
with a resounding ‘YES.’”
against HB 1247 was State Sen. Karen Tallian, D-Portage, who characterized
the bill as an “end-run” unfair to the people who fought against alcohol at
Indiana Dunes State Park and won. She was joined by representatives of the
Hoosier Environmental Council, the Citizens’ Action Coalition, and the
Hoosier Chapter of the Sierra Club.
HB 1386 now
contains, among other things, a provision requiring the Indiana Alcohol and
Tobacco Commission to automatically grant three-ways to the Indiana DNR on
behalf of any of its state parks, eliminating local ABC oversight, public
notification, and community input.
In 2015 citizens in
Northwest Indiana remonstrated against the issuance of an alcohol permit to
Pavilion Partners LLC, a company under contract to renovate the Pavilion at
Indiana Dunes State Park and construct a banquet center just south of the
beach. The Porter County Alcohol Beverage Commission denied the permit and
that decision was subsequently upheld by the Indiana Alcohol and Tobacco
will set a negative precedent by overturning a valid alcohol permit denial
that has already gone through a public process,” Dunes Action said.
Robertson added, will continue to encourage the public to contact
legislators and urge them to vote against HB 1386 when it comes to the