Alcohol, hate crime laws among OneZone’s 2019 legislative priorities


By Maria Cook

OneZone Chamber of Commerce has outlined six legislative priorities for 2019.

Chamber Mo Merhoff

The chamber will support legislation modernizing Indiana’s alcohol laws, enacting bias crime penalties, addressing opioid use, supporting regional development initiatives, improving school safety and reforming tobacco laws.

OneZone President Mo Merhoff said Indiana’s liquor laws have improved recently but still need revision.

“The legislature took a big step forward in (going) into more of a free market mentality when it allowed Sunday sales last year,” Merhoff said. “But we’re the only state in the union controlling the temperature of beer and that seems rather foolish to us from a free market standpoint. There have been difficulties, in fast-growing communities like ours, with getting more liquor permits. They are very expensive and they’re tough to get. The pitch from cities and communities like ours was, ‘You ought to be more lenient with fast-growing areas.’”

CIW DOUGH 0621 Russell

Of all the legislation OneZone will support in 2019, bias crime penalties, also known as hate crime laws, may end up being the most publicized, according to OneZone Chief Operating Officer Jack Russell.

“When we look at Indiana as a whole, we aren’t attracting enough people to our cities,” Russell said. “When we look at bias crimes legislation, it’s an important factor from a jobs standpoint.”   

Merhoff agreed that such legislation could help Indiana businesses attract more employees.

“You want to be able to check all the boxes when a company is looking at your state,” she said. “We don’t want to be looked over because we’re in a very small minority that don’t have these types of laws. I think again this is an issue that will attract media attention, so I think it may be one of the dominant discussions during the session.”

Learn more about the priorities at