EDITORIAL: Super Bowl is super chance to change state's image

February 12, 2011

As the ubiquitous Super Bowl XLVI countdown clocks make abundantly clear, in less than a year the eyes of the nation will be on Indianapolis as it hosts the greatest spectacle in football.

And for the next 356 days or so, a lot of time and energy will be spent making sure the city is ready for the spotlight. Not much gets civic leaders’ attention like having 5,000 members of the media and 150,000 deep-pocketed fans drop by for a long weekend.

The local host committee already is hard at work ironing out the details members hope will make the event a success. But there’s more to it than keeping traffic flowing and sidewalks clear of snow.

The 2012 Super Bowl is an opportunity to change once and for all the unfair perception of Indiana as a backwater, corn-fed state full of squealing tires and good old boys. It’s so much more—a life sciences hub, clean-energy innovator and logistics powerhouse, to name just a few.

But for all those accomplishments, we’re still stuck in the Dark Ages in some regards. And here’s where legislators could do their part to help by bringing Indiana’s laws into the 21st century.

Our General Assembly to-do list reads like a “best of” IBJ editorials: Institute a statewide smoking ban. Get rid of antiquated liquor laws. Drop an effort to write the gay marriage ban into the constitution. Forget about heavy-handed immigration reform.

None of these are easy issues, especially for politicians. But they are crucial ones if Indiana wants to continue to break free of its aw-shucks image.

Nearly 30 states—and several Indiana cities—already prohibit smoking in public places, taking a stand against the dangers of secondhand smoke. Indiana needs to join their ranks with a strong law that demonstrates the state’s commitment to public health.

To their credit, legislators seem poised to pass a smoking ban this year, but in its current form the bill has far too many exemptions. If we aspire to build our reputation as a hotbed of medical research and life-improving treatment, we need to walk the walk.

Then there are the liquor laws. When Super Bowl visitors are in town, we’ll need a special corps of volunteers to explain to them how liquor stores can sell cold beer but not cold mixers, grocery stores are just the opposite, and their coolers had better be stocked before Sunday.

Our liquor laws are complicated and unnecessary—and remind us of Sheriff Roscoe P. Coltrane breaking up the Duke boys’ stills in the hills of Hazzard County. Isn’t that the impression of Indiana we’re trying to erase?

There’s a bill pending that would legalize Sunday carryout sales. Naturally, it has plenty of opposition.

These lifestyle issues are important, but hardly the only thing lawmakers have on their plates as they write a new budget, restore the state’s insolvent unemployment insurance fund and examine Indiana’s education system. So why bog down the session by tackling hot-button issues like gay marriage and immigration? It’s just not necessary.•


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