The topic of booze is taking up a nip of the time left in the 2007 Iowa Legislative session. It is currently illegal to have alcohol in the state capitol, but legislators have passed resolutions in the past granting exemptions for certain events. This morning, the Iowa Senate voted 33 to 16 to allow a champagne toast on capitol grounds for the Hy-Vee Triathlon in June.
Senator David Hartsuch, a Republican from Bettendorf, objects to the idea. "As an E-R physician, I’m always having to stitch up the victims of abuse of alcohol," Hartsuch says. "I think we are setting the wrong standard for our state."
Senator Dave Mulder, a Republican from Sioux Center, worries that alcohol is becoming too readily available. "As an old coach, I battled that with athletes. I don’t even like the association of it," Mulder says. "It just seems to be spreading…I would encourage us to stay away from the use of alcohol at the capitol."
Late yesterday, the Senate also approved a bill that would give the state’s executive council authority to grant waivers so organizations that throw statehouse receptions can serve alcohol.
Senator Mike Connolly, a Democrat from Dubuque, says alcohol will only be served at significant statehouse events and food vendors for such parties will be required to have a valid liquor license. "Basically, (the bill) allows the executive council to make a decision," Connolly says.
The state’s executive council is made up of statewide elected officials including the governor, lieutenant governor, attorney general, auditor, treasurer, secretary of state and ag secretary. The most high-profile reception to get an exemption from legislators to serve alcohol was the statehouse gala for the National Governors Association in July of 2005.
The Iowa House has not yet considered the idea of giving the state executive council the authority to make such decisions in the future, but might take up the bill sometime this week as legislators rush to conclude their work and adjourn for the year.