Utah Senate, House OK companion liquor bills
Alcohol • Changes triggered by recent scandal are unlikely to impact consumers.
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Changes to Utah's liquor control system are moving through the Utah Legislature, with companion bills passing the House and Senate on Thursday.

The reform comes in the aftermath of a scandal at the Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control that saw the former director steering $370,000 in contracts to his son's business, and lax oversight from the liquor commission.

"This is a monumental task to restructure this department," said Sen. John Valentine, R-Orem, sponsor of SB66, 1st substitute. "The commission maintains independence [while] the department is under more direct supervision of the executive branch."

The bill, which passed the Senate unanimously, expands the commission from five to seven members, with two subcommittees — one dealing with compliance and licensing, the other with operations and procurement.

An independent audit division would track finances within the agency, and an advisory panel made up of restaurant and bar licensees would advise the commission.

Commissioners would be nominated by the governor and confirmed by the Senate. An executive director would report to the commission.

Another portion of the bill gives a break to Utah brewers, who could brew more beer and still qualify for a break from the normal markup on liquor.

Meantime, the House passed HB354, 1st substitute, sponsored by Rep. Ryan Wilcox, R-Ogden, which moves the responsibility for collecting revenue from liquor sales to the Utah Tax Commission and forms a panel to collect data on drinking in Utah.

Wilcox's bill passed the House 68-3. His bill now goes to the Senate, while Valentine's moves to the House.

The House also voted 53-17 to pass HB184, sponsored by Rep. David Litvack, D-Salt Lake City, which creates a Blue Ribbon Commission to study Utah's alcohol regulations.

Utah drinkers likely will not be impacted by any of the changes, nor will restaurants or bars that sell alcohol.