Chesterton Tribune



Committee advances Dunes pavilion bill 7-2

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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.

Fifteen private 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.’”

Also testifying 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 Commission.

“The legislation will set a negative precedent by overturning a valid alcohol permit denial that has already gone through a public process,” Dunes Action said.

Dunes Action, Robertson added, will continue to encourage the public to contact legislators and urge them to vote against HB 1386 when it comes to the Senate floor.


Posted 2/25/2016





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