Belly Up To The….Capitol?

Politics should soon be a lot livelier in the Ohio State Capitol.  A panel of government officials recently paved the way for the inclusion of a full-service bar in the Ohio statehouse—a decision that will be met, no doubt, with a round of cheers.

The decision was not without controversy.  Republican Rex Damschroder, for example, tried to, well, scotch the bill, arguing that the Statehouse was “the last place” a bar should be located, citing, in particular, the number of children that come to the Capitol Building on educational field trips.

Fellow Republican Bill Seitz, however, described such arguments as overblown: “What’s the big deal?  We’re not talking about putting George Jones and Willie Nelson on the jukebox and having people spending all their waking hours in the Capitol Cafe, drowning their sorrows.“

Milo’s Capitol Café, as it is euphemistically named, will serve beer, wine, and liquor, and will be open to the public at specified times, while also hosting lawmakers for “private happy hours.”   The establishment will be equipped with numerous flat-screen televisions and, one assumes, a democratic bonhomie.

Interestingly, five percent of the bar’s revenues will go to help pay off the Capitol building’s 1996 restoration, while another five percent will be dedicated to a state program providing vocational services to the disabled.

The “café” also has the potential to add a rich layer to the legislative lexicon and other imponderable questions.  When a legislator says that a colleague can be found “on the floor,” what, exactly, will that mean?  Is it possible that legislators could get tanked while privately negotiating military spending?  Has anyone considered that, now, not only can a Senate vote end in a tie, the Senate can also tie one on.  I could go on and on.

So I will.  Does the economy look better when examined through beer goggles?  Will “last calls” interfere with “quorum calls?” The questions are as endless as a senatorial filibuster—which, by the way, might be a lot more amusing after a little giggle juice.

What about the general public?  Will a regular customer be permitted to run up a tab as high as his portion of the federal debt?  If a drink is “on the House,” will it be paid for the by the House of Representatives?  And if tea-party members are a boisterous lot now, what will they be like after a Sake party?

Prudently, the legislature recently exempted the Capitol from their otherwise questionable bill permitting guns in places that serve alcohol.

It is worth noting that the opening of the capitol bar comes close on the heels of unfortunate alcohol-related incidents involving Ohio State legislators and police.  In July, Bob Mecklenborg resigned from the Ohio House of Representatives following news that he was arrested, with a stripper, on suspicion of driving while intoxicated—a regrettable incident that might never have happened had he been able to drink in the comfort of his own state capitol.

More recently, Ohio State Representative Jerrod Martin was also arrested for drunk driving, although it should be noted that he was not cavorting with strippers at the time.  He was with his children.

Both Mecklenborg and Martin were simply following the taillights, as it were, of Ohio legislator Carlton Weddington, who was previously ticketed for DUI while driving 82 miles per hour in a 45 mile-an-hour zone.  Representative Weddington pled “no contest” to the charges, was fined $375, sentenced to a year’s probation, and ordered to attend an alcohol-awareness program. Weddington vowed to become a better “public servant,” and promised to enact tougher drinking-and-driving legislation in the future—much, one suspects, to the chagrin of Mecklenborg and Martin.

Amidst these temperance-related tempests, the Ohio legislature also tried to raise the legal amount of alcohol in beer to 18 percent.

It failed, and that’s probably a good thing.  It sounds as though Ohio has quite enough trouble brewing.

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