SALT LAKE CITY — Two bills that would overhaul the Utah Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control advanced in the Legislature on Thursday.
SB66 was amended again to allay concerns of operators of receptions centers, requiring annual compliance reporting instead of quarterly reports and clarifying the law regarding to special events at reception centers when alcohol is served.
"This is one of those bills, in some ways, I may have lost my voice speaking to so many interested voices on it. But I think we got it right," said bill sponsor Sen. John Valentine, R-Orem.
The measure, which moves to the House for consideration, would increase the membership of the state liquor commission from five to seven members and require its meetings and subcommittee meetings to be subject to the state's open meeting laws.
SB66 also places more oversight authority in the hands of the governor, who would appoint the commission's chairman. Three members of the commission would serve on a subcommittee to address licensure and compliance. The other three would serve on a subcommittee over operations and procurement.
The bill also creates an audit committee within the agency and would require hiring an audit director.
Valentine and Senate President Michael Waddoups, R-Taylorsville, noted that there was nothing in the bill to preclude the elected state auditor from his or her constitutional oversight duties.
Meantime, the House passed HB354 sponsored by Rep. Ryan Wilcox, R-Ogden, by a vote of 68-3. It now goes to the Senate.
The bill calls for a committee within the Department of Public Safety to collect data in five areas — over-consumption, over-serving, underage drinking, DUI rates and alcohol-related abuse.
Wilcox said information in those areas has not been gathered in the past. "A lot of our decisions were based on assumptions," he said. The findings will help guide future alcohol policy.
It also would require the DABC to remit money made from its markup on alcohol sales to the State Tax Commission rather than retain it as a department "slush fund."
Legislative audits that revealed mismanagement in the agency prompted the bills, which Wilcox said are the culmination of work the past year.