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Lawmakers still at odds over alcohol ID age requirement

April 7, 2011

Indiana legislators disagree about how to revise a much-ridiculed law requiring store clerks to check the identification of all carry-out alcohol customers regardless of their age.

The House voted 81-11 on Thursday to approve a bill that would no longer require store clerks to card customers who appear older than 40. But the Senate is considering a proposal that would set that carding provision at 50.

The proposals would revise a law that took effect last summer and immediately generated complaints from senior citizens and others who said it made no sense.

Democratic Rep. Matt Pierce said that even with Indiana University's main campus in his hometown of Bloomington, he's had no complaints from 21-year-olds about having to show IDs to buy alcohol.

"I've heard from every 85-year-old wine drinker in my district asking, 'Why are you doing this to me?'" Pierce said.

Sen. James Merritt, R-Indianapolis, said he sponsored a Senate committee amendment this week making the carding age 50 after hearing concerns that the age difference between 21 and 40 wasn't broad enough.

"I picked 50 because I think it's reasonable to think that someone that is 50 years old doesn't look 21, more so than 40 and 21," he said.

Bill sponsor Rep. Greg Steuerwald, R-Danville, said he prefer keeping the provision for carding at 40, but would discuss it more with Merritt and others. He and Merritt said they were confident of the current law being revised.

"I'm just trying to put some commonsense into this thing," Steuerwald said. "I want to keep alcohol away from minors but there's no reason why senior citizens have to be carded."

Liquor store owners have supported the stricter ID law, saying it wasn't that inconvenient and that it had led to a drastic drop in attempts by minors to buy alcohol because they know clerks have to card all customers.

Steuerwald said nothing in the proposed changes would prevent a retailer from having employees ask all customers for identification.

"If that's their policy, that's acceptable," he said.

Rep. Ed DeLaney, D-Indianapolis, criticized the proposed change, saying he didn't know how a clerk could be held responsible for how old they thought a customer looked.

"I understand why people are upset with the current law," DeLaney said. "But it is real simple."

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