Hendricks County Flyer, Avon, IN

Westside

May 21, 2013

Legislature had little taste for alcohol bills

When it comes to alcohol, the 2013 legislative session may be marked more by what it didn’t do to boost booze sales than what it did.

Repeating recent history, the General Assembly turned away efforts to expand Sunday alcohol sales and allow gas stations and convenience stores to sell cold beer — the latter of which has prompted a lawsuit.

Legislators did decide to let a small group of well-established wineries and breweries get into the business of distilling spirits, and it cleared the way for an auction of some cheap liquor licenses for lakefront development in a resort community on Lake Michigan. But they crafted both bills to have narrow impact.

In turning down another bill that would have given Indiana breweries the same right as Indiana wineries to sell their products at farmers’ markets, the legislative gatekeepers signaled their distaste for lifting Indiana’s historically strict limits on alcohol.

“If we did that, the next thing you’d know, we’d have farmers’ markets turning into liquor stores,” said House Public Policy Chairman Bill Davis, a Republican from Portland who’s played a key role in killing alcohol expansion bills.

Davis is a teetotaler who’s repeatedly killed a bill that would allow grocery and liquor stores to sell carry-out alcohol on Sundays. But he said decisions aren’t based on his personal views, but on what’s best for public safety.

“We all understand that not everyone uses alcohol the way it’s intended,” Davis said. “By far and away, it’s the most abused drug in our state. My real concern is about availability: How available is alcohol to people who abuse it or have it and shouldn’t have it?”

It’s a similar view to the one held by his counterpart, Senate Public Policy Chairman Ron Alting of Lafayette, who’s blocked measures to let gas stations and grocery stores sell cold beer, citing concerns that it would increase drunk driving.

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