Abraham Lincoln once cautioned against changing horses in midstream.
Indiana House Speaker Brian Bosma has been known to quote the first Republican president when he speaks at GOP Lincoln Day dinners. But Bosma ignored that little gem of political wisdom last week when he decided to replace former Sen. Beverly Gard with former Rep. Bill Davis of Fort Wayne as chairman of the state's Alcohol Code Revision Commission.
Gard, who had been a highly respected state lawmaker, was appointed chairman last year by Senate President Pro Tem David Long. She proved an excellent choice as she guided the commission through discussions about two long-running issues – whether to allow alcohol sales on Sunday and whether to expand the sale of cold beer.
A Sunday sales proposal won the commission's blessing and went on to become state law this year. The commission also voted 8-7 in favor of a proposal to allow groceries, pharmacies and convenience stores to chill beer before it's sold. But because of absences, the proposal fell one vote short of an official majority, and the idea once again went nowhere in the 2018 session.
The commission's highly anticipated debate, though, apparently escaped the attention of Bosma, who this year had the option of retaining or replacing Gard on the commission, a joint creation of the House and Senate. Bosma told The Journal Gazette's Niki Kelly on Wednesday he was unaware that Gard had been among the unofficial majority who voted in favor of expanded cold beer sales. Presumably, the speaker was also unaware of Gard's comments after the vote.
''The polls all show that a strong majority of Hoosiers think that there should be more outlets for cold beer,” Gard said in an interview with The Journal Gazette. But “liquor stores – they have a monopoly. They lobbied hard and strong to keep that.”
Bosma said he chose to replace Gard with Davis because of his “knowledge of the system and the ability to run a committee.” But as Kelly noted, Davis repeatedly blocked discussions of proposals to change the cold beer rules when he was chairman of the House Public Policy Committee.
In truth, it's unlikely the cold-beer issue will even be discussed this year. The commission is supposed to focus on the wholesale side of alcohol regulation.
But Gard didn't deserve to be sacked. Her only misstep was to ignore another political maxim: Don't rock the boat.