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This Year's Targets for Alcohol Law Changes: Permit Quotas, Excise Police Funding

Cold beer not on tap for study committee recommendations later this month

(INDIANAPOLIS) - An alcohol study committee will recommend changes in Indiana's laws in two weeks. But the panel's moved away from its original goal of simplifying the code.

After two summers of reviewing Indiana's alcohol laws, House Public Policy Chairman Ben Smaltz (R-Auburn) says it's complicated for a reason. He says the laws need to be drawn with precision, because the alcohol industry will use "every inch" of what's allowable.

The committee won't revisit the cold beer debate after voting against changes last year which would have allowed convenience stores to sell beer chilled. And it doesn't appear to be planning to address rules on who qualifies for a permit. But the panel will look at changes to Indiana's system of linking the number of available alcohol licenses to population. Smaltz has floated the possibility of allowing towns to create "entertainment districts," where a majority of residents could petition to add more alcohol sellers than the town would otherwise have. Indiana law already has a similar provision for riverfront districts.

The panel is also examining ways to give the excise police more funding to boost manpower. Last year, the committee discussed higher fines and fees. Smaltz says he's now looking more at keeping them the same, but doubling the amount earmarked for enforcement. The current system puts about one-point-six-million dollars in the state's general fund.

The committee's recommendations aren't binding, but legislators followed the panel's lead in this year's session, when they legalized Sunday alcohol sales while refusing to modify the cold beer rule.

(Photo: Ryan McVay/Thinkstock)

 

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