After February’s Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control’s Commission meeting, 10 bars were still waiting for a full liquor license. Despite that, Utah legislators have made it clear they will not raise or eliminate the cap on club licenses, although they are considering raising the cap for full-service restaurant licenses. Rep. Gage Froerer, R-Huntsville, originally sponsored a bill that would have eliminated liquor-license quotas but has revised his proposal so that the number of restaurant licenses would increase and tavern licenses would decrease, but club license limits wouldn’t change. The bill at press time is awaiting a vote in the House. During a Feb. 24 committee hearing, the most compelling arguments for legislators, seemingly, were that two national chains that want to open in Utah need restaurant liquor licenses. Meanwhile, most of those waiting for a club license are run by local entrepreneurs. Utah’s Own, indeed.
A $13.4 million federal grant could potentially help the state provide high-speed Internet access to Head Start centers, public and charter elementary schools, and public libraries that currently use much slower connections. The increased speed would meet practical needs such as enabling students to take assessment tests online or helping teachers utilize multimedia lessons. The only hitch is that the state must match the grants with $3.5 million over the next three years, a spendy proposition in a year when too many legislators seem to be view public education as a luxury.
Utah’s Civil War
For a state facing a budget crunch, Utah’s leaders seem very willing to flush money down the states-rights toilet. On Feb. 26, Gov. Gary Herbert signed into law an exemption from federal regulation for any firearm or ammunition made in the state. The bill’s sponsor, Sen. Margaret Dayton, R-Orem, described the bill as a sovereignity issue, not a gun issue. It’s also a challenge to federal authority that will cost money to defend. On that same day, another bill passed the House that would allow the state to exercise eminent domain over federal lands—in other words, they could seize federal lands to do as the state sees fit. The cost for that legal fight is $3 million, a perfectly legitimate expenditure when the other funding needs, such as essential medical services for poor Utahns, school supplies for children or police officers, likely will be pruned.