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House dumps resort-city liquor license bill, as members decry evils of drinking

Legislation to let resort-city inns get special, non-transferable liquor licenses with the approval of their local city councils came in for heavy opposition in the House today, before being killed on a lopsided 26-43 vote. First, Rep. Ken Andrus, R-Lava Hot Springs, told of a gang of drunken hooligans trying to take over his hometown after a Fourth of July fireworks show two years ago. “All this happened because of drinking,” Andrus said. He then shared the story of a 9-year-old girl who was hit while crossing the road by a local teacher with a drinking problem who was driving drunk. “He hit her, cut the top of her head right off,” Andrus told the House. “I had to conduct the funeral service for that little girl.” Andrus urged the House not to pass anything that could increase drinking in Lava Hot Springs, which is one of the state's 10 resort cities. “We don't need any more infidelity, we don't need any more broken marriages, broken homes, we don't need any more divorces, we don't need any little children crying and sobbing themselves to sleep at night because one or more of their parents have a drinking problem,” he declared.

Rep. Janice McGeachin, R-Idaho Falls, revealed a potential conflict of interest, noting that she's currently negotiating for a liquor license for a new business, but said she'd vote on the bill and wouldn't profit from its passage or failure.  McGeachin said she'll have to pay almost as much for the liquor license as for the building, which is being remodeled. “Those who by necessity must comply with current law are forced to pay high prices for a license,” McGeachin said. “It is simply not fair to the small business who can least afford these exorbitant prices and who does not have the political clout to change the laws. … This is a blatant disregard for our current state policy.”

Rep. Ken Roberts, R-Donnelly, urged rejection of the bill, saying Idaho's enacted too many special liquor license provisions already, for everything from ski resorts to golf courses, and it should instead reform the system.

Rep. Frank Henderson, R-Post Falls, who co-sponsored the bill with Rep. Wendy Jaquet, D-Ketchum, said the measure would promote economic development and help out existing Idaho small businesses and employers. It would have applied only to inns with at least 15 rooms, a full-service restaurant and convention facilities. “Liquor by the drink is a logical addition to services for that kind of an inn, and it is consistent with efforts to build our tourism industry,” Henderson told the House. He said he was “disappointed” by some of the debate, which included multiple readings from the Idaho Constitution's “temperance” provision.


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Betsy Z. Russell covers Idaho news from The Spokesman-Review's bureau in Boise.

Named best state-based political blog in Idaho for 2013 by The Fix

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