Another successful session for the Public Policy Committee

Posted by: Courtney Scott  | Friday, May 1, 2015

As chairman of the House Public Policy Committee, there was rarely a dull moment at the Statehouse. Each year, we are tasked with reviewing some of Indiana’s most challenging issues: alcohol, gaming, guns, abortion and so on. Now that session is over, I would like to take this opportunity to discuss some of the legislation that came out of this committee and has now been sent to the governor for his signature.

One piece of legislation that we spent a great deal of time studying was House Enrolled Act (HEA) 1542, a comprehensive bill which made some much needed updates to our state’s alcohol laws. This legislation encompasses many different issues that businesses, especially small businesses, face in terms of alcohol sales. Under this bill, when an alcohol permit is approved, a business will be able to obtain a letter of authority from the Alcohol and Tobacco Commission. This will allow them to more quickly begin the hiring process and operate while they are waiting to receive the permit.

Not only was the bill designed to reduce burdensome government regulation on businesses, but also to increase flexibility for Hoosier social clubs. This is done by repealing language that restricts Sunday sales of alcohol in these clubs. Currently, they can only sell alcoholic beverages on any 12 Sundays during a calendar year. This will help clubs in our community, such as the American Legion, to have more events where alcohol is served, and ultimately, earn more money for charity.

The legislation also allows senior residence facilities to serve alcoholic beverages without obtaining a permit. This was brought to our attention when excise recently began enforcing the law prohibiting alcohol in nursing homes. Ultimately, we felt that our state’s senior citizens should be able to enjoy a drink in their own home, if they so choose, regardless of where that home is.

We also passed a comprehensive piece of legislation aimed at helping Indiana casinos better compete with surrounding states. One of the things that we learned from our extensive summer study committee was how intertwined the various gaming entities in our state truly are. In short, the changes that we make regarding one of these entities has a direct impact on another, so we sought to make each of them more competitive in their own way.

For instance, HEA 1540 allows our state’s riverboats to move inland to adjacent properties within their current footprint. This allows them to build new, updated facilities which will create jobs and save the casinos money on marine personnel, which they are currently paying for boats that do not move. This is also great for Northwest Indiana in particular, as the Majestic Star Casino in Gary will be able to move inland and free up the Buffington Harbor for future economic development opportunities.

In addition, this legislation allows racinos to request approval for live dealers beginning in 2021. This delay will allow other gaming entities across the state time to prepare and change their business model accordingly.

We also made permanent the promotional play deduction for riverboats and racinos and urged the Legislative Council to assign multiple gaming topics to an interim study committee. These topics include the extent to which local governments rely on tax revenue from gaming as well as how statutory wagering tax rates affect the competiveness of Indiana’s gaming facilities within the state and regional gaming industry.

With session over, I am looking forward to being back in LaPorte fulltime and spending more time with my wife, Jackie and our two children. During this time, I will continue to do all that I can to be a resource for our community.

Keeping an open line of communication is critical, even during the interim, and I invite you to contact me anytime with questions, comments or concerns. I can be reached via email at h20@iga.in.gov or by phone at 317-232-9850.

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