Thursday, January 18, 2018

Laws With Selective Application -- More Information

When I wrote about one of the more senselessly narrow (and generally puzzling) of the alternative sets of qualifications under which certain cities and counties may enjoy a limited exemption from Indiana's Sunday-only alcohol sale prohibition (a prohibition that may only exist for another few months), I mentioned that the other alternatives provided for in IC 7.1-3-1-25(a) did not appear to make a lot of sense, either.  However, I did not at that time take a closer look at those other alternatives (preferring to focus on the one that narrowly extends that exemption to a city with a population ranging from 4,950 to 5,000 people, which I thought provided the more effective and unmistakable demonstration that population parameters had been abused at some point by a past General Assembly).

I want to be certain that readers know that such abuse of the incorporation of population parameters into legislation is not confined to this single, extreme case.  To show that the abuse is not limited to that outlying case, let's look at how the very same code section used population ranges to identify the counties that are allowed that same special exemption.

IC 7.1-3-1-25(a) provides that it applies to cities and counties that meet any of the nine alternative specifications that it lists.  (Instead of covering all of the details right here, I will minimize the clutter in this post by "showing my work" in this separate post.)  Six of those nine use population ranges to identify the affected counties, and the population ranges of some of them run right up to the edge of the population range of another, with the result that those six alternatives combine to form three larger population ranges.  Counties whose respective populations fall inside any of those three ranges have the benefit of IC 7.1-3-1-25(a); other counties* do not.

The problem with the specified population ranges is the absence of any obvious rationale for IC 7.1-3-1-25(a) to apply to counties with populations falling inside those ranges but not to counties with populations falling outside of those ranges.  It is especially difficult to imagine what might set apart the counties that have populations falling somewhere in the gaps between the ranges.  What it is that supposedly makes those counties unfit to enjoy the benefits of IC 7.1-3-1-25(a), even though that code section does apply both to counties with larger populations and to counties with smaller populations -- and not only that, but it applies to those more populous and less populous counties on the basis of population?

The following are the ranges within which a county's population must fall (any one of the three) for IC 7.1-3-1-25(a) to apply to the county:

125,000 to 138,000
175,000 to 250,000
270,000 to 400,000

Of course, this excludes counties with populations below 125,000 and counties with populations above 400,000. I do not know what the purpose of that could have been, but let's turn our attention again back to the gaps between these ranges. Without the gaps, these ranges would have covered all counties with populations falling between 125,000 and 400,000 (inclusive), between which there is a difference of 275,000. It is useful to keep that in mind as we decide what we ought to think of the gaps:

138,000 to 175,000 -- a difference of 37,000
250,000 to 270,000 -- a difference of 20,000

So, as a general matter, IC 7.1-3-1-25(a) applies to counties within a population range spanning 275,000, but it has evidently been decided that any counties with populations falling inside either of two small sections of that range ought to be excluded from its effect -- one segment with a span of 37,000 and another with a span of 20,000.  Strictly speaking, it is not impossible that legislators believed (perhaps even with a reason for believing it) that counties with populations between either 138,000 and 175,000 people or 250,000 and 270,000 people are somehow less fit than other counties to have the benefit of IC 7.1-3-1-25(a) ... but I see no need to take that possibility seriously.**

* A county also has the benefit of IC 7.1-3-1-25(a) if it happens to be the county of a consolidated city.  So far, the only Indiana county which that has ever described is Marion County, which has been consolidated with the City of Indianapolis for approximately fifty years.

** That benefit is to permit the sale of alcohol at certain public facilities -- including on Sundays.  This benefit may not be one of the highest importance, but it is one that I believe that every county is as fit as any other county to have.

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