Lawmakers Create Alcohol Study, Family Leave Not On Agenda

May 29, 2017

Change could be coming for Indiana’s alcohol laws after legislative leaders announced a two-year study of the state’s alcohol statutes. And legislators say the special commission won’t involve the alcohol industry.

Controversy this past session over convenience stores obtaining alcohol carryout permits – otherwise expressly prohibited in state law – prompted the creation of the alcohol law study commission.

The 17-member panel will be made up of lawmakers and non-legislators appointed by House and Senate leadership. And Senate President Pro Tem David Long (R-Fort Wayne), who will name the chairperson, says the committee will include former members of the Alcohol and Tobacco Commission and Excise Police. But members can’t have a stake in – or connection to – the current alcohol industry.

“So we’re trying to bring expertise to the commission but we’re trying to do it in a way that’s an arm’s length from the existing special interests that are involved in alcohol today,” Long says.

This won’t be the first time the legislature has studied Indiana’s alcohol laws. But House Speaker Brian Bosma (R-Indianapolis) says there’s never been more attention on the necessity for change.

“It will have a higher profile during this interim and the next than prior efforts had,” Bosma says.

Democratic leaders applaud what they call the “well-balanced” commission they say will be free from “vested interests.”

Legislative leaders also announced the full slate of this summer’s study committee topics, including gun regulations, keeping lead out of water systems and rural broadband. But a study on paid family leave – overwhelmingly backed by the General Assembly – didn’t make the cut.

Legislation this year urging a study of paid family leave cleared the Senate 35 to 14 and the House 93 to 2, but it won’t be studied this summer. That’s because Republican caucus leaders in both the House and Senate voted against it.

When asked why, Bosma at first said it was a numbers issue.

“[There were] 131 topics – so they’ve got to be pared down to 50 and among many other worthy topics,” Bosma says.

But Long interrupted to say it goes further than that.

“I just don’t see this as not caring about family leave or families,” Long says. “I just think this topic we feel like is covered by federal law adequately and I’ve never heard that we’re falling short in any way.”

Federal law doesn’t provide for paid time off and neither does Indiana, unlike some states.

In a statement, Indiana Democratic Party chairman John Zody criticizes the decision not to study paid family leave, saying Republicans showed they aren’t focused on what he calls “forward-thinking” policies.