Indiana creates panel to review alcohol laws

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INDIANAPOLIS  — A new panel has been created to make recommendations about how to change Indiana’s retail rules on alcohol sales.

The Alcohol Code Revision Commission doesn’t have any lobbyists or members with an ownership interest in an alcohol license, the Journal Gazette in Fort Wayne reported.

The group also isn’t allowed to accept gifts or entertainment from lobbyists. However, campaign contributions are still allowed.

“It sends a good message to the public,” said Ed Feigenbaum, a longtime observer of the Legislature who runs the weekly newsletter Indiana Legislative Insight.

Lawmakers on the panel have received at least $200,000 from all sides of the alcohol industry. The committee includes eight legislative and four lay members.

“You can’t read votes into donations,” said Fort Wayne Democrat Rep. Phil GiaQuinta. He’s received at least $32,000 since 2007. He said the contributions have come from all sides.

House Speaker Brian Bosma and Fort Wayne Senate President Pro Tem David Long said the committee restrictions are necessary because alcohol regulation is a high-profile issue in the state. The gift and entertainment ban was added because while legislators and lobbyists report spending, there isn’t a similar requirement for lay members.

“They can go to lunch together, but the legislator can pay for their own,” Bosma said.

The two-year panel will likely look into rules regarding carryout sales on Sundays, selling cold beer for carryout, and the state’s three-tier distribution system.

The first meeting is scheduled for Aug. 22 in Indianapolis.

Lawmakers created a similar two-year panel in 2008 through 2009 to look at alcohol regulation. The group denied Sunday alcohol sales and was against expanding the sale of cold beer. The committee also recommended mandatory identification checks for alcohol sales. That legislative change was later reverse after it received widespread criticism.

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