Chesterton Tribune

 

 

Tallian hopes to defeat DNR alcohol bill in the Senate

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By JEFF SCHULTZ

State Senator Karen Tallian, D-Ogden Dunes, told a packed room at Chesterton Town Hall Saturday that she “will do whatever she can to get [House Bill 1247] killed” in the Senate.

If passed into law, the bill would allow the DNR to have alcohol at state parks without approval from local Alcoholic Beverage Commissions.

Tallian came to Chesterton for her yearly town hall discussion of happenings in the Indiana General Assembly where she stated clearly her opposition towards the bill that would bypass local control and allow alcohol at the Dunes Pavilion.

“My vote is no. You don’t have to send my any more letters. My vote is going to be no,” Tallian said.

Close to 60 residents attended the forum which also included State Reps. Chuck Moseley, D-Portage, and Scott Pelath, D-Michigan City.

Tallian said bills like HB 1247 come about when “somebody doesn’t get what they want and turns to the legislature.” A representative for Pavilion Partners LLC spoke in favor of the bill during the House’s Public Policy Committee hearing in January. PP LLC sought a liquor permit for the Dunes Pavilion, which was voted down last fall by both the Porter County Alcoholic Beverage Board and the Indiana Alcohol and Tobacco Commission.

The bill is being co-sponsored by Tallian’s colleague Sen. James Arnold, D-LaPorte, who she said wants it passed to get alcohol sales at the inn at Potato Creek State Park.

Pelath said it “bothers” him to see “somebody try to make a bundle” through deals with the State. The bill passed the floor 58-38 but garnered some Republican opposition, he noted, because it “just didn’t pass the smell test.”

The three lawmakers gave the audience advice on how to fight HB 1247. Moseley said to him, it’s “a matter of math.” The bill could be defeated by getting a majority of six senators on the Public Policy Committee, or 26 senators on the Senate floor. If it goes to the Governor’s desk, the opposition then would only need to convince one person -- Gov. Mike Pence.

“I agree we need to continue fight. It’s a fight where you have to be relentless,” Moseley said.

Opponents of HB 1247 should be encouraged that new laws allowing changes in alcohol sales typically don’t make it all the way through the Assembly.

Tallian said the bill could die if the Committee chair Sen. Ron Alting, R-Lafayette, decides not to hear the bill.

From the audience, Dunes Action member Pam Rearick said she’s contacted Alting’s office and was told that the committee will hear the bill on Feb. 24 or maybe even earlier, on Feb. 17.

The bill could end up in a conference committee if lawmakers decide they don’t want to agree on it, said Pelath, who mentioned that he would be able to appoint someone to that committee.

Porter County Council member Sylvia Graham, D-at large, said she dislikes the bill because it “takes away home rule” by bypassing the ATC’s process and the fact that the DNR allowed Pavilion Partners to have a lease for only $18,000 in rent per year.

“Why did they take the deal at $18,000? That’s peanuts! That’s almost an insult,” said Graham. Tallian agreed saying “you can’t get warehouse space for that price anywhere.”

The DNR’s budget has been slashed considerably in recent years, Tallian said, which is why they have sought a private group to renovate the Pavilion. She said she has been told that upgrading the pavilion had been set quite low on the DNR’s list of priority projects.

Tallian said lawmakers, including herself, passed a bill in 2012 to allow the sale of alcohol at the Dunes Pavilion because they were told that no one would be interested in putting up a bid to revamp the Pavilion unless liquor could be sold.

The measure received no opposition then, Tallian said. She objects to the Pavilion Partners’ deal, because “it was done in a vacuum.”

Comments from the audience included Valparaiso resident Jeff Cefali who thanked Pelath and Moseley for speaking against the bill during the House’s hearing for HB 1247.

Economy

Before the HB 1247 discussion, the panel discussed other hot-button issues such as funding road projects, LGBT civil rights language and the economy.

Even with measures like Right-To-Work and the repeal of the common construction wage act which were said to help drive jobs in Indiana, Moseley said there are companies who are leaving Indiana. This past week, the Carrier manufacturing plant in Indianapolis has decided to move its offices to Mexico, which will end up eliminating 1,400 jobs. United Technologies Electronic Controls in Huntington will be moving to Mexico as well, losing 700 jobs, and Alcoa is eliminating 600 jobs.

“We don’t seem to be going forward, but backward,” Moseley said.

Civil Rights

Meanwhile, it looks like the LGBT rights bill may not get passed as there are some Senate Republicans who feel the bill grants more than they are comfortable with while senators who support LGBT cause feel it doesn’t grant enough, Tallian said.

Republicans and Democrats were in harmony however over a bill that would toughen penalties against perpetrators of hate crimes, Tallian said. The Senate this past week passed Senate Bill 220 that gives judges authority to impose stronger sentences against those who commit criminal acts based on prejudices against sexual orientation, race, gender and religion.

Pelath believes that the Religious Freedom Act has an “inarguably harmful” impact on the state, with reports of visitors and consumers deciding not to give their business to Indiana. He said the state has to learn that society’s view on LGBT rights has changed but there are some lawmakers who are “just not comfortable discussing it.”

Recycling Districts

In other matters, Tallian told the audience that she was able to add an amendment to one bill that has been in the news lately -- SB 336 -- regarding the option for counties to eliminate their recycling and waste reduction districts. The bill originally proposed that the districts could be eliminated by a two-member majority vote of a county commissioner board.

Tallian said her amendment now requires a majority of both the commissioners and the county council and that an alternative plan for recycling must be presented along with a public hearing before the votes are held.

The bill appeals more to counties in Indianapolis and Ft. Wayne, which do not utilize their districts much, rather than counties like Porter, she said.

Roads

Pelath, who is the House Minority Leader, talked about the arguments surrounding HB 1001 -- the bill that would increase funding for local roads by, as it stands now, increasing the tax on gas and cigarettes,

The Democrats have advocated using a percent of the state’s sales tax on gasoline which a survey found would be “generally palatable” to residents, Pelath said.

The Senate is debating the gas tax increase and its long term effects. Pelath said he is confident that a decision will be made.

“The roads are our number one economic strategy. It helps give education to a skilled workforce, streets, police and consumer growth,” he said.

Moseley and Pelath said that even though this is a short session, it is one of the most contentious years for the Statehouse.

“It has its share of peculiarities. For instance, we have Republicans arguing for tax increases in an election year,” Pelath said.

 

 

Posted 2/15/2016

 
 
 
 

 

 

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