The cocktail to go must travel in the trunk under the new bills | News, Sports, Jobs

Margaritas and other mixed, alcoholic drinks, first allowed as to-go orders from restaurants and bars in Iowa during the initial flurry of the coronavirus pandemic, can be shoved into vehicle trunks.

Currently, those drinks are not considered open alcohol containers and can be carried in vehicles within reach of drivers. Two bills in the Iowa House and Senate would reverse that, and hold drivers accountable for open containers if police approach them with even a sealed cocktail.

The current law was intended to boost revenue for businesses hit hard by the pandemic, with in-person dining largely halted and to-go orders and deliveries becoming the norm. After several state governors enacted such a provision on an ad hoc basis, Iowa’s first state legislature codified such a provision.

The problem is that the rule threatens to withhold about $14 million a year in federal funding for roads and bridges. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration imposes “transfer penalties” on states without compliant open container laws and requires Iowa to use 2.5 percent of its funds for anti-drunk driving efforts.

“We’re supportive from a highway funding aspect, and not having a drink in the front seat of the car or in the back seat where it’s accessible,” said Susan Fenton, legislative liaison for the Iowa Department of Transportation. Thursday.

Fenton’s comments were part of a Senate State Government subcommittee hearing on Senate Study Bill 1032, which the subcommittee brought forward. A House committee canceled Thursday’s hearing on the identical House Study Bill 29.

Sen. Council Bluffs, R-Council Bluffs, is the special agent for the Iowa division. Dan Dawson said, “Understanding that there’s a lot of conversation here, I’m happy to move it today. The criminal investigation that led the Senate hearing.”

Dawson wondered aloud why state requirements for sealing to-go containers weren’t sufficient for federal regulators, but said he had no problem moving the drinks into trunks for transport.

The state’s initial version of the cocktail bill in 2020 resulted in stricter sealing methods — shrink wrap or screw-top lids — and a ban on the use of disposable cups made of paper, Styrofoam or plastic. Lawmakers in 2021 have loosened restrictions on containers that have straw holes or lids for drinking straight from the container, which federal officials said are unacceptable, according to a Division of Alcoholic Beverages memo.

The currently proposed legislation would allow additional leeway with to-go containers used by restaurants and bars, without violating open container requirements.

Pet cocktails must travel in the trunk under new bills

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