Chesterton Tribune



Pence signs Dunes alcohol bill; opponents not giving up fight

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Indiana Governor Mike Pence on Thursday signed into law House Enrolled Act 1386 which, among other things, will allow the Department of Natural Resources to apply for three-way liquor permits without having the approval of local alcoholic beverage commissions.

HEA 1386, which is to go into effect on July 1, would allow Pavilion Partners LLC to sell alcohol at the Indiana Dunes Pavilion and at its proposed banquet center.

The bill passed both the Indiana House of Representatives and the Senate despite protest efforts. House Minority Leader Scott Pelath, D-Michigan City, whose district contains parts of Duneland, helped deliver a petition of nearly 10,000 signatures collected by the Dunes Action grassroots group to the governor’s desk.

Pelath told the Chesterton Tribune today that HEA 1386 was “an undermining plan from the beginning” of the political process to allow Pavilion Partners to get the license it needs to sell alcohol, with party politics a major factor. Pavilion Partners principal Chuck Williams is 1st District Chair of the Indiana Republican Party and has donated to Pence’s campaign.

“Our natural resources exist for our enjoyment, not for exploitation,” Pelath said.

Dunes Action issued a statement on Thursday, with co-founder Desi Robertson saying that despite the outcome, the group has been “very successful” in educating the public and getting people involved during the legislative session. Supporting the opposition were organizations such as the Sierra Club, the Hoosier Environmental Council, Citizens Action Coalition, and Save the Dunes.

“By failing to veto this bill, Governor Pence has struck a blow to local community rights, opened our state park to commercialization for the sake of selling alcohol, and demonstrated a lack of concern for small businesses in our area. The governor missed a golden opportunity to send a strong message to the General Assembly that these ideas are not acceptable. Instead, he signaled that our family-friendly Indiana state parks are now up for grabs,” the Dunes Action release states.

State Senator Karen Tallian, D-Ogden Dunes, this morning said she believes this is less about having alcohol at the state park and more about Pavilion Partners’ effort to build its roughly 30,000 sq. ft. banquet center.

Tallian said it is common for business owners to turn to the legislature when the law prohibits them from getting something they want. Pavilion Partners was denied a permit by both the Porter County Alcoholic Beverage Commission and the Indiana Alcoholic and Tobacco Commission.

Pavilion Partners has appealed the state ruling but has said it would likely drop the appeal if HEA 1386 was passed.

Tallian said the bill was difficult to stop in the House and the Senate because, being an omnibus bill, there were “many things in it that people (around the state) wanted.”

HEA 1386 contained portions of several other alcohol and tobacco bills that were packaged together by the Indiana Assembly’s Public Policy Committee, Tallian said. The authorization for the DNR to obtain alcohol permits for state parks was at one time its own separate bill -- HB 1247.

In addition to alcohol sales allowed at all 24 state parks for an annual $250 permit fee, HEA 1386 will allow the sale of beer, wine and liquor on Sunday in limited quantities by artisan distilleries and farm wineries, both growing industries. Formerly part of HB 1118, the bill will also allow for new three-way liquor permits, not to exceed more than 24, in redeveloping towns and cities in central Indiana -- Whitestown, Lebanon, Zionsville, Westfield, Carmel and Fishers, -- at $40,000 per initial permit.

HEA 1386 also allows the sale of alcohol at raceways on the Sunday of the Indianapolis 500 race and alcohol permits for events at hotels owned by accredited colleges and universities.

One part of the bill that spurred some heavy opposition from business owners was implementing tighter controls over the sale of e-liquid, which is what is used in vapor cigarettes.

Tallian said “it looks like (the opposition) lost this round” but encouraged groups to continue the fight even though she is not sure if anything can now be done in the legislature. “It’s very discouraging,” she said.

Dunes Action said that “in terms of what’s next, the Pavilion project still cannot move forward without National Park Service approval, due to the state's past use of Land and Water Conservation Fund dollars. Dunes Action has never stopped pursuing this issue, and will continue its opposition to the proposed banquet center. The group will also focus on activities to continue increasing public awareness and support.”

“Environmental battles of this kind often take years to fight, and this is just the latest chapter in the history of the Dunes. Like the many groups that came before us and fought to preserve this unique place, Dunes Action has no intention of stopping,” said the Dunes Action statement.

Pelath said one recourse opponents can take is to remember to vote in the November. “This is why we have elections so the people can have a say in government,” he said.


Posted 3/25/2016





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