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Beer wholesalers enlist lawmakers in fight against Monarch

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The Statehouse is a common battlefield for factions in Indiana's alcoholic beverage industry, and this session, one group of beer wholesalers is firing shots in multiple directions.

Driven by the Indiana Beverage Alliance, Senate Bill 415 seeks to derail federal court cases brought by the group's opponents–  including Indianapolis-based Monarch Beverage Co. – who claim Indiana's Prohibition-era alcohol laws are unconstitutional.

The bill also contains a long list of rules on how beer companies can do business with wholesalers, a set of provisions meant to remedy the trade group's ongoing quarrel with Anheuser-Busch InBev.

Indiana Beverage Alliance President Marc Carmichael called the bill “my turd in the punch bowl.”

“We've certainly gotten a lot of attention,” Carmichael said.

Republican Sen. Ron Alting, chairman of the Public Policy Committee, is sponsoring the bill.

Indiana's beer wholesalers split into two camps as Monarch tried to change Indiana law so that it could distribute liquor as well as beer. Liquor wholesalers oppose that change, and so do the beer wholesalers represented by the Indiana Beverage Alliance. Both groups fear that it would help create a distribution monopoly.

Having failed to get bills passed over four sessions, Monarch turned last year to federal court with a lawsuit against the Alcohol and Tobacco Commission, saying Indiana's law violates the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment.

The convenience store lobby, the Indiana Petroleum Marketers and Convenience Store Association, filed a similar lawsuit in May over the fact that its members aren't allowed to sell cold beer.

SB 415 states that if any portion of the Indiana code on alcohol is found to be invalid, the rest shall be interpreted to limit, rather than expand, commerce in that industry.

Monarch CEO Phil Terry said he's opposing the bill, even though he agrees that Indiana's laws are intended to be restrictive. “We don't necessarily disagree with the policy statement they've got in there,” he said. “It's just, I know why they put it in there, to affect our lawsuit.”

The Indiana Beverage Alliance supports liquor distributors who are trying to intervene in Monarch's lawsuit, but Carmichael said SB 415 isn't aimed at one case or trade group.

He said the goal is to prevent deep-pocketed companies from challenging state alcohol laws in court. “It's been a phenomenon around the country over the last several years as various groups have tried to deregulate alcohol to their advantage.”
 

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  1. This law is troubling in two respects: First, why wasn't the law reviewed "with the intention of getting all the facts surrounding the legislation and its actual impact on the marketplace" BEFORE it was passed and signed? Seems a bit backwards to me (even acknowledging that this is the Indiana state legislature we're talking about. Second, what is it with the laws in this state that seem to create artificial monopolies in various industries? Besides this one, the other law that comes to mind is the legislation that governed the granting of licenses to firms that wanted to set up craft distilleries. The licensing was limited to only those entities that were already in the craft beer brewing business. Republicans in this state talk a big game when it comes to being "business friendly". They're friendly alright . . . to certain businesses.

  2. Gretchen, Asia, Roberto, Tonia, Shannon, Cheri, Nicholas, Sondra, Carey, Laura ... my heart breaks for you, reaching out in a forum in which you are ignored by a professional suffering through both compassion fatigue and the love of filthy lucre. Most if not all of you seek a warm blooded Hoosier attorney unafraid to take on the government and plead that government officials have acted unconstitutionally to try to save a family and/or rescue children in need and/or press individual rights against the Leviathan state. I know an attorney from Kansas who has taken such cases across the country, arguing before half of the federal courts of appeal and presenting cases to the US S.Ct. numerous times seeking cert. Unfortunately, due to his zeal for the constitutional rights of peasants and willingness to confront powerful government bureaucrats seemingly violating the same ... he was denied character and fitness certification to join the Indiana bar, even after he was cleared to sit for, and passed, both the bar exam and ethics exam. And was even admitted to the Indiana federal bar! NOW KNOW THIS .... you will face headwinds and difficulties in locating a zealously motivated Hoosier attorney to face off against powerful government agents who violate the constitution, for those who do so tend to end up as marginalized as Paul Odgen, who was driven from the profession. So beware, many are mere expensive lapdogs, the kind of breed who will gladly take a large retainer, but then fail to press against the status quo and powers that be when told to heel to. It is a common belief among some in Indiana that those attorneys who truly fight the power and rigorously confront corruption often end up, actually or metaphorically, in real life or at least as to their careers, as dead as the late, great Gary Welch. All of that said, I wish you the very best in finding a Hoosier attorney with a fighting spirit to press your rights as far as you can, for you do have rights against government actors, no matter what said actors may tell you otherwise. Attorneys outside the elitist camp are often better fighters that those owing the powers that be for their salaries, corner offices and end of year bonuses. So do not be afraid to retain a green horn or unconnected lawyer, many of them are fine men and woman who are yet untainted by the "unique" Hoosier system.

  3. I am not the John below. He is a journalist and talk show host who knows me through my years working in Kansas government. I did no ask John to post the note below ...

  4. "...not those committed in the heat of an argument." If I ever see a man physically abusing a woman or a child and I'm close enough to intercede I will not ask him why he is abusing her/him. I will give him a split second to cease his attack and put his hands in the air while I call the police. If he continues, I will still call the police but to report, "Man down with a gunshot wound,"instead.

  5. And so the therapeutic state is weaonized. How soon until those with ideologies opposing the elite are disarmed in the name of mental health? If it can start anywhere it can start in the hoosiers' slavishly politically correct capital city.

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