Many states have similar provisions, says sponsor of liquor reform bill

Image composite, St. George News

ST. GEORGE — Members of the Utah House of Representatives passed the second substitute of a massive liquor reform bill Friday.

The proposed Alcohol Amendments legislation, first designated as HB 442 and now HB 442-S2 for the second substitute bill, is sponsored by Utah House Majority Leader Brad Wilson, R-Layton. It was introduced Feb. 27 and revised on Feb. 28 before being approved by the House Business and Labor Standing Committee on Wednesday.

Read more: Public torn as Zion Curtain reforms move forward

Before discussion Friday, the second substitute was approved by the House. One of the changes, Wilson said, is the phasing in of implementation for dining clubs to qualify under a “restaurant” liquor license, extending the time an establishment would have to reach the benchmark of 70 percent food sales versus alcohol sales.

Other changes, Wilson said, include adding an eighth member to the Division of Alcohol and Beverage Control Advisory Committee from the restaurant industry and delaying the off-premise licensee components for an additional year.

This has been a great exercise in collaboration and trying to find balance between a lot of different parties and interest groups,” Wilson said before the final vote on the bill, “which I think have all worked very well together to try to find common space.”

Wilson clarified several points of the bill, including the fact that changes had been made to accommodate resorts that may have multiple types of licenses, a concern raised by a representative of Snowbird Ski Resort at Wednesday’s committee hearing.

“It allows them to continue their current practice,” Wilson said.

Rep. Patrice Arent, D-Millcreek, said that while she believed the bill was “an improvement over the current law,” she still had questions regarding the basic premise that she feels have never been addressed. She said:

The basic premise of this bill… is that it is dangerous and a problem if children watch drinks being mixed. So over the years, I have asked, and I have asked, and I have asked, where is the data? Where are the studies? … but no one has ever given me the data that I have asked for over all of these years.

While not specifically addressing Arent by name, Rep. Mike Noel, R-Kanab, addressed the issue of a connection using his own experience. Noel said that in addition to spending many years working with alcoholics, both he and his wife were “adult children of alcoholics” and that they both had several other family members who were alcoholics.

Noel cited his own experiences seeing his father drink and the “enamored effect” of children seeing drinking as leading to his own past problems with alcohol.

“To say that this doesn’t create problems and to say that there’s not a cause and effect I think is really not correct,” Noel said. “It’s a very simple thing: Don’t allow children to get enamored by it. … Whenever we change alcohol laws, we should move forward in a very deliberate manner to protect the most vulnerable in our society, which are our children, so I appreciate this bill.”

Rep. Brian King, D-Salt Lake City, also addressed the question of changing the laws in his comments. He said:

Regulations that we impose at the state level should be rationally related to three particular distinct and specific issues involving drinking. They should decrease underage drinking, they should decrease overconsumption – or at deal at least with the issues involved in overconsumption – and they should deal with the reality that the existence of alcohol in our state carries with it some degree of driving while under the influence and the public safety hazards that are attached to that.

King said that he shares the concerns of others who had brought up the question of whether Utah should continue to have regulation of establishments serving alcohol that isn’t rationally related to one of those issues but ultimately also called the bill “a movement in the right direction.”

In his summation, Wilson said Utah wasn’t alone in these types of regulations, listing 15 specific states “and others that all believe that children shouldn’t be right next to a bar.” Utah’s neighbors of Arizona, Idaho and Wyoming were among the states he listed.

The proposed bill would increase the markup on alcoholic beverages by 2 percent from cost-plus 86 percent to 88 percent. For “heavy” beer sold in liquor stores, the markup would go from 64.5 to 66.5 percent. That increase would pay for other drinking prevention and training programs in the bill.

The fiscal note attached to HB 442-S2 states that enactment of the bill could increase revenue to the Liquor Control Fund by nearly $5 million starting in 2018. The fiscal analysis includes a breakdown of where that money would be allocated, which includes the state’s General Fund, the School Lunch Account, Alcoholic Beverage Control Act Enforcement Fund and Parents Empowered.

HB 442-S2 passed the House by a vote of 58-10, with seven members absent or not voting. All Southern Utah representatives voted in favor of the bill, with the exception of Reps. Jon Stanard and Walt Brooks, who were among those absent or not voting.

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6 Comments

  • [email protected] March 7, 2017 at 6:50 pm

    Utah’s current regulations controlling the sale and distribution of alcoholic beverages are significantly more flexible than thirty years ago. Most folks do not remember the stupidity of “splits” of wine, mini bottles, etc……….Who remembers the “private club” nonsense just to get a mixed drink, or real beer?

    As a taxpayer, I am more excited that the blood alcohol concentration limit could be reduced to 0.05 from current 0.08. We have statistically significant reductions in deaths caused by drivers under the influence, in countries who have adopted a tighter limit. Between a lower limit defined for impairment, and increasing the financial consequences for driving while impaired, we could see a serious reduction in loss of life.

    The Zion Curtain is an insignificant nuisance for new establishments. The cost of construction and minor operational inconvenience is wildly overstated by the hospitality industry. Alcohol sales are a hugely profitable piece of the hospitality industry’s revenue stream. They have no basis to whine about these minor changes, nor should they complain if Utah does something innovative by lowering the BAC limit. If public consumption of alcohol drops as a result of the potential BAC reduction, and we see a concomitant reduction in deaths from impaired drivers, who could argue that that is not a positive outcome?

    • Real Life March 8, 2017 at 7:19 am

      Comparing the state to itself 30 years ago is no valid argument. That’s like comparing North Korea to itself from 30 years ago. Somebody has been drinking the kool aid.

  • ladybugavenger March 8, 2017 at 4:00 am

    Hey everybody! How about you don’t drink and drive and then you’ll have nothing to worry about.

    • Chris March 8, 2017 at 7:19 pm

      Did you even read the article? It has nothing to do with drinking and driving. You are incredibly stupid.

  • Robert March 8, 2017 at 3:37 pm

    This bill cost the state every dime of our money spent in their liquor store. We will drive the 35 minutes to Mesquite, have a nice lunch at the casino and purchase our beer & liquor at the local store, for one hell of a lot less money.

  • DB March 8, 2017 at 4:11 pm

    The Utah legislature’s obsession with alcohol is silly. I’ve heard that too many milk shakes make children fat. How about a ‘Zion Curtain’ at Dairy Queen and McDonald’s? Yes, alcohol is addictive to some people. So is sugar, to a lesser extent.

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