Rep. Larry Watson was awed Wednesday that lawmakers would rather dole out liquor licenses than let 19-year-olds run for the Legislature.
“Not all 19-year-olds have purple hair and earrings in their noses,” Watson said to counter arguments that young adults aren’t mature enough for the Legislature.
But the House State Affairs Committee refused to give Watson’s bill a hearing.
Several minutes later, members surprised the Wallace Democrat again by agreeing to debate his liquor license bill.
That proposal would allow county commissioners to issue liquor licenses to businesses located five miles outside city limits that have had a beer and wine license for 10 years and serve at least two meals a day. The proposal also would require businesses to be involved in the recreation or tourist industry.
“It just went the opposite way than I figured,” Watson said, shaking his head.
He expected lawmakers would find lowering a candidate’s age of eligibility more palatable than unraveling Idaho’s jumbled liquor laws.
But committee members scoffed at the idea.
“Why not wait two more years for a little maturity,” Rep. Ruby Stone, R-Boise, said.
The age minimum for House and Senate candidates is 21, but the youngest lawmaker is Rep. David Callister, R-Boise, who is 35. Sen. Shawn Keough, R-Sandpoint, is the Senate youngster at 38.
North Idaho College student Josh Buehner vows to get the age minimum changed.
The law quashed the Rathdrum resident’s 1996 bid for the House because he was only 18.
“You can vote when you’re 18, go can go to war when you’re 18, yet you can’t participate in your government until you’re 21,” Buehner said. “And that’s really disturbing to me.”
He called the committee “cowardly” for not having a debate to hear the pros and cons.
“You just can’t make a judgment on what sounds good or what sounds bad,” Buehner said.
Although Watson lost the age battle, he has renewed faith in his liquor license bill that would help businesses such as Gloria’s Steak House in Prichard sell hard liquor.
The plan comes because Idaho’s liquor laws leave decisions on licenses up to the Legislature - not to local authorities such as county commissioners. Counties can grant beer and wine licenses, and incorporated cities are allowed to issue liquor licenses based on a quota system of one license for every 1,500 residents.
But when it comes to a license to sell liquor by the drink out in the country, it takes a law.
The state would issue between 50 and 100 new nontransferable liquor licenses if the bill passes. Twelve of those would be in the 10 northern counties, Watson said.
“The only thing wrong with this bill is it has too many requirements,” Rep. Jim Stoicheff, D-Sandpoint, said in support of the bill. “It’s about time we got off the pot.”