Recently, I participated in a Third House at Purdue University North Central to discuss what the General Assembly accomplished during the 2014 legislative session. As always, I enjoy attending these events because they allow us to connect and provides for an opportunity for you to talk and for me to listen. Having open dialogue allows me to represent you more effectively, and with close to 1,000 bills authored this session, your input was crucial to how I cast my vote; especially when it came to legislation around highly contested issues such as alcohol or gaming.
Some of Indiana’s most challenging bills were assigned to the Public Policy Committee, which I was appointed to Chair this session by Indiana House Speaker Brian Bosma. After accepting this new responsibility I made a few promises as Chairman; I vowed to start meetings on-time, ensure that every issue was properly vetted and that everyone had the opportunity express their opinion. With the sensitive nature of these bills, I appreciated members of the committee as well as those who testified for being respectful while having these difficult conversations.
One discussion in particular, highlighted by the media as well as the public, was on Senate Enrolled Act (SEA) 339, which lifts the alcohol ban at the Indiana State Fair. Established in 1947, the ban was put in place after alcohol vendors, exhausting their supply of plastic cups, switched to glass bottles, which littered the fairgrounds. This new law not only prevents this situation from reoccurring, allowing alcohol only to be sold and kept in a designated drinking area, but also prohibits underage drinking from taking place by requiring everyone to provide identification before entering.
Virtually every state allows alcohol to be distributed at their state fairs, and alcohol was already allowed on the Indiana’s state fairgrounds, except while the fair was running. Testimony from the Indiana State Fair Commission expressed that the fair would continue to be a family-friendly environment while providing an excellent opportunity for Indiana’s breweries and wineries to showcase their high-quality products.
This issue was one of many that the Public Policy Committee addressed and worked to find a common sense solution on. Again, I appreciated all of your phone-calls, emails and letters during session, particularly those who responded to my pre-session survey. There were 10 questions on the survey, some pertaining to public policy issues, and those responses guided my decisions. For example, I discovered that 66 percent of my constituents wanted me to vote in favor of allowing alcohol at the state fair.
As your voice at the Statehouse, your input is very important to me and allows me to represent our community more effectively. Although the 2014 legislative session is over, my work to improve Northwest Indiana and state is ongoing. If you have a questions or concerns that you would like me to address please email me anytime at email@example.com or call my office at 317-234-3827.
Rep. Dermody's column is also published in the Herald Argus in LaPorte.