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The Journal Gazette

Thursday, May 31, 2018 1:00 am

Alcohol panel gets new chair

Former local legislator to head oversight group

NIKI KELLY | The Journal Gazette

INDIANAPOLIS – House Speaker Brian Bosma went a new direction with the Alcohol Code Revision Commission, appointing a chairman who has regularly blocked cold beer discussions in the past.

Bill Davis of Fort Wayne served in the Indiana House from 2004 to 2013. He chaired the House Public Policy Committee from 2011 to 2013. During that time, attempts to allow Sunday carryout alcohol sales and to allow more retail stores to sell cold beer failed.

Bosma chose Davis to replace former state senator Beverly Gard, who headed the commission last summer and sided with attempts to free up alcohol regulations rather than protect the status quo.

Gard was tapped by Senate President Pro Tem David Long last year as chair. The appointment alternates, and it was Bosma's choice this year. He could have retained Gard but reached out to a trusted former House member.

“I didn't even know how (Gard) voted on those things,” he said. “(Bill) has a knowledge of the system and the ability to run a committee.”

Bosma said he doesn't expect cold beer to be a addressed this summer, considering the direction given by the Legislative Council.

“But it's up to the commission,” he said.

In 2017, the Alcohol Code Revision Commission was charged with undertaking a comprehensive review of Indiana's alcohol laws and submitting recommendations to the General Assembly. The commission divided its work over two years, with a focus last year on reform recommendations for the retail sector of Indiana's alcohol statutes.

Lawmakers this year finally authorized Sunday alcohol sales, but the cold beer debate remains.

This year, the Legislative Council charged the commission with examining ways to reduce complexity and improve consistency in Indiana's alcohol licensing system, evaluating the current quota structure for providing alcohol licenses, and studying over-consumption at retail outlets, hours of sale, and the impact on DUI rates, sexual assaults and public safety.

A major focus will be on licensing within the three-tier system of manufacturing, wholesale and retail.

“During Bill's service to the General Assembly, especially as chair of the Public Policy Committee, he always demonstrated strong leadership skills, integrity and the right temperament when handed tough issues,” Bosma said. “His strong background in the private and public sectors will help him lead the commission as they focus this summer on improving Indiana's alcohol licensing laws and evaluating the impacts of over-consumption.”

Davis originally served east-central Indiana and moved to Allen County after his retirement. He was district director for former Rep. Marlin Stutzman from August 2015 through December 2016.

He is listed as vice president of government relations for the Stutzman Group, a consulting firm in northeast Indiana.

Davis also worked for Meshberger Brothers Stone Corp. for 32 years, and he and his wife also owned and operated Limestone Products Inc. for more than 30 years.

nkelly@jg.net