Chesterton Tribune



Vote is 12-0 to override local alcohol boards, clear the way for bars in Indiana state parks

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It’s still numbered HB 1247 but in sum and substance it is, in fact, SB 188, which would compel the Indiana Alcohol and Tobacco Commission to grant the DNR, on behalf of a state park, a three-way permit exempt from local ABC oversight and proceedings.

And that’s the bill--ghost-authored, so to speak, by State Sen. Jim Merritt, R-31st--which will go to the floor of the State House of Representatives for a vote.

At 7 a.m. today (8 a.m. CST) the House’s Public Policy Committee voted unanimously, 12-0, to pass HB 1247, as amended, and send it to the House floor.

Although HB 1247 will go to the floor as the nominal product of State Reps. Tom Dermody, R-20th, and Sean Eberhart, R-57th, not a word of their original language remains in the bill. Scrapped entirely--“deleted,” as Amendment No. 6 puts it--are Dermody and Eberhart’s provisions which would have required the IATC to grant a three-way to alcohol retailers “for economic development purposes” free of local ABC intervention.

Amendment No. 6 then inserts into Dermody and Eberhart’s now empty vessel a not quite verbatim rendering of Merritt’s SB 188. The changes are all superficial but for one: SB 188 states that the IATC “shall issue a permit” to the DNR “(u)pon proper application”; HB 1247 states that the IATC shall issue a permit merely “upon application,” without the modifying conditional proper.

In all other respects, HB 1247 is now a mirror of SB 188, which would force IATC to issue three-ways to DNR without public notice or investigation by the local ABC; without regard to quota provisions; without a “determination of reputation and character”; and without “consideration of location,” that is, irrespective of whether there is a need for such services at the location of the permit, whether there is desire in the neighborhood or community “to receive such services,” and whether such services will have an impact either on the community or on other businesses in the community.”

State Rep. Tim Wesco, R-21st, the Public Policy Committee’s vice-chair, did voice unease about HB 1247 in Wednesday’s session, “heartburn,” as he called it. That all changed overnight, as Wesco told his colleagues today before casting his yea vote.

“Took some time last evening just to do more research, digging into what happened there in Portage [sic] County with their local alcohol commission and how that all went down,” Wesco said. “Really disappointed in how that process worked out. And sometimes in the legislature we’re put in a position where we have to step in and fix something that wasn’t carried out correctly in the first place.”

Wesco did not explain what exactly disappointed him in the ABC’s “process,” what the mistake “in the first place” was, or how HB 1247 as amended will “fix” it.

Merritt, for his part, told the Chesterton Tribune earlier this month that his intent in authoring SB 188 was to make the inn, conference center, and golf course at Fort Harrison State Park, in his district, more competitive with the many hotels, restaurants, and other entertainment options located near the park.


Posted 1/28/2016






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