A beer loophole, a needed study
Jay Ricker probably did not intend to prompt a much-needed study of Indiana's convoluted and outdated liquor laws. But that is what he did.
Ricker found a loophole in the law prohibiting convenience stores from selling cold beer. Restaurants are allowed to make such sales, so he added seating and Tex-Mex food to two of his convenience stores, and put cold beer on the menu.
A few other convenience stores across the state have been selling cold carryout beer for years using restaurant liquor licenses, but lawmakers happened to notice Ricker's action — and they didn't like it.
But pushing cold beer out of the convenience stores wasn't quite the quick fix some legislators thought it might be.
Call blocking and free speech
The group Patriotic Veterans Inc. has asked the Supreme Court to determine whether Indiana's ban on robocalls — those annoying prerecorded messages that interrupt your dinner or favorite TV show — violate the First Amendment right to free expression.
It's the right place for the dispute to be. Lower courts have ruled both ways on similar statutes, and the Supreme Court is the right forum for such disagreements.
And where the court might come down is anybody's guess. A good case could be made either way, both that robocalls are protected by the First Amendment or that they are not. And it seems such a close call that it could be one of those infamous 5-4 decisions.
Cigarette tax hike shot down
Public health advocates are dismayed that for the second year in a row, a hike in the state's cigarette tax has been proposed and failed.
A tax increase, they say, would be among the most effective ways of lowering the state's high smoking rate and improving its dismal heath ranking. “We've been putting so much emphasis on our structural infrastructure,” said Monique French, chairwoman of Tobacco Free Indiana. “We need to put the same amount of focus on our human infrastructure here.”
The advocates are correct. Higher costs for tobacco products would encourage some adult smokers to quit and discourage many young people from ever starting. But the primary purpose of a tax is never to direct public behavior.
Don't charge for records search
In 2015, the General Assembly passed a bill allowing Hoosiers to be charged for public records searches. But Gov. Mike Pence vetoed it and said the cost of public records shouldn't be a barrier to the public's right to know.
Now legislators have sent similar legislation to Gov. Eric Holcomb. The new bill allows state and local government agencies to charge the lesser of $20 per hour or the hourly wage of the employee completing the search, after the first two hours spent working on the request. It requires a “good faith effort” to complete the search within a reasonable amount of time but does not say who would audit agencies or hold them accountable.
Holcomb should follow Pence's example and veto this bill.
Will free trade survive reform?
One question about the tax reform many are expecting from Congress this year is whether it will include a “border adjustment tax,” which would be a levy on imported goods. We would counsel strongly against it, but that's not necessarily the majority opinion.
Businesses in Indiana are divided on the idea. Under border adjustment, American companies would pay tax on the sale of imported products, but not on products they sell overseas. So companies that depend on exports for their profits are for the tax. Those that depend on imports are very much against it.
There is no such thing as pure “free” trade, or anything like the pure “fair” trade that free-trade opponents support.