SALT LAKE CITY (CN) – A state House committee approved a bill that will require two members of Utah’s five-member alcohol control commission to be alcohol drinkers.
House Bill 193, sponsored by state Rep. Brian Doughty, D-Salt Lake City, would require the governor to appoint two “consumers of an alcoholic product,” attested to by affidavits, to the Alcohol Beverage Control Commission.
It also requires that no more than three members of the commission may be of the same political party.
The bill originally called for “regular” drinkers, but that broad term was removed.
HB 193 states: “At least two of the commissioners shall, for at least one year before being appointed and during their term, be consumers of an alcoholic product purchased from an entity authorized to sell alcoholic products.
“The governor shall require an individual to sign an affidavit verifying compliance …
“If as of July 1, 2012, there are not at least two of the commissioners who meet the requirements … the governor shall appoint a new commissioner or reappoint a commissioner in a manner that brings the commission into compliance.” (Stricken language removed; ellipsis added.)
Commissioners serve 4-year terms and are appointed by the governor with the consent of the state Senate.
Alcohol is a contentious topic in heavily Mormon Utah.
As part of the “Word of Wisdom,” a commandment revealed by Latter-day Saints founder Joseph Smith in 1833, Mormons are encouraged to refrain from alcohol, coffee, tea and tobacco.
Though Utah cast the deciding vote to repeal Prohibition, it prohibited booze production within its boundaries from 1870 until High West Distillery was opened in 2007.
The craft distiller, which makes spirits, including rye whiskey and vodka, is the first legal booze-maker in Utah since Brigham Young commanded the distillation of Valley Tan, a whiskey that Mark Twain called “the exclusive Mormon refresher … made of fire and brimstone.”
HB 193 also will require that the alcohol control board contain people from a variety of livelihoods: “If as of July 1, 2012, there are more than two commissioners with the same profession or occupation, as terms of commissioners expire, the governor shall appoint a new commissioner or reappoint a commissioner in a manner that brings the commission into compliance,” the bill states.
The commission of five part-time members was audited recently and has been under close watch since its director, Dennis Kellen, was forced to resign last summer. Flexpak, a company owned by Kellen’s son, received more than $270,000 from the commission for “maintenance supplies and services,” leading to the shake-up.
The Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control, formed in 1935, is tasked with “conducting, licensing and regulating the sale of alcoholic beverages in a manner and at prices which reasonably satisfy the public demand and protect the public interest, including the rights of citizens who do not wish to be involved with alcoholic beverages” according to its home page.
Utah, home of the Church of Latter-day Saints, promotes “moderation,” according to the Alcoholic Beverage Control Department.
A similar bill under consideration, SB 66, would increase the liquor commission to seven members.
The state Senate voted unanimously this week to move SB 66 to a final reading.