As we’ve previously written, members of the Indiana General Assembly recently announced their intention to set up a summer House committee to study alcohol laws in the state. Our cautious optimism has been somewhat dampened, though, by revelations surrounding some of the campaign contributions received by the members of this panel.
“Every member of the Indiana General Assembly will likely deal with alcohol legislation at some point,” reported Scott L. Miley, CNHI statehouse reporter, Thursday. “Many also accept campaign contributions from the alcohol lobby. On Tuesday, a 17-member panel of elected officials and lay members begins to examine Indiana alcohol laws. In the first year of its two-year study, the Alcohol Code Revision Commission is to look at retail laws. A final report is due Nov. 1, 2018. All of the nine current and past legislators named to the commission have accepted campaign contributions from the liquor lobby, according to campaign finance reports.
As we’ve also previously written, we are the only state in the country that bans beer, wine and liquor sales on Sundays. Indiana’s alcohol restrictions may have started as Blue Laws based on religious proscriptions, but their continuation to this day is all about the accommodation of package liquor stores. Most grocery stores are open seven days a week anyway, so they would be all too happy to sell liquor then as well. Package liquor stores can only be open when it's legal to sell liquor. The law as currently structured obviously isn’t about what’s best for the consumer.
Of course, for those of us advocating for change, there’s the convenience of being able to buy alcohol seven days a week. People are already out shopping on Sunday, so combining trips would only make sense for those already at the grocery store. But, consider this: According to state law, it’s perfectly legal on Sunday for someone to get in their car, go to a bar and drive home. This is true seven days a week. But, it is illegal on Sunday for someone to drive to the store, purchase liquor, drive home and then drink. Which seems safer to you? Which set of laws would increase, rather than decrease, drunken driving fatalities?
We hope this panel can overcome the financial incentives to work for one party’s interests, and instead go to work for their constituents. It remains to be seen if they can, though. Actions will speak louder than words.