Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Curtailing Underage Drinking, Or Curtailing Competition?

It never ceases to amaze us of the ability of a smooth-talking lobbyist to convince legislators that a bill he is pushing is for some public benefit when in reality it is nothing more than self-serving, special interest legislation. That would be the case with HB 1250 and the lobbyist promoting it.

As the Star reports it, "John Livengood, president of the Indiana Association of Beverage Retailers, said the bill would 'do more to curb underage drinking than anything else I have seen proposed.'" And if you didn't believe Livengood, the Indiana Coalition to Reduce Underage Drinking was on hand to tell you the same. "Lisa Hutcheson, the coalition's director, said underage drinking is a 'serious and persistent public health issue and we need to keep alcohol regulated and controlled.'"

HB 1850, which is sponsored by Rep. Luke Messer (R-Shelbyville), imposes new regulations on grocery stores and convenient stores in the way they display alcoholic beverages, the training of their employees authorized to record alcoholic beverage sales, and prevents future expansion of beer and wine sales in convenience stores among other things.

Not surprisingly, grocery stores and convenient stores don't like the bill. "Joe Lackey, president of the Indiana Grocery and Convenience Store Association called the bill 'absurd' because it unfairly singles out grocery and convenience stores for additional regulations."

C'mon folks, this bill has nothing to do with curtailing underage drinking. It's all about liquor stores trying to limit unwanted competition. As if underage drinkers only get their alcohol from grocery stores and convenient stores. Underage drinkers are far more likely to purchase their alcohol from a friendly liquor store than a grocery store or convenient store. But they are even more likely to get if from their parents' stash or from an of-age friend. It's unfortunate that a truly well-intended organization would allow itself to be co-opted by a lobbyist serving a self-serving industry.

HB 1250 passed the House by a vote of 68-27. It is currently pending in the Senate Committee on Commerce & Transportation, where it is sponsored by Sen. Sue Landske (R). Maybe the Senate will see this bill for what it truly is, but it's hard to find a lobbyist who wines and dines legislators more than John Livengood so he'll probably get his way with this one.


Anonymous said...

I think he should use his influence to change the archaic law of no retail alcohol sales on Sundays.

Whats up with that? Why is no one ever challenging that law?

FlyBoy said...

I think you hit this issue right on the head. The way i see it, the beverage distributors already have a monopoly, and this is just a way to let the liquor stores reap great benefits. Look at Indiana's law that does not allow shipping of wine out of the state. This is another way for the state to hide prohibition. I also agree with Kevin's comment about Sunday sales.