It's unlikely that a tape recording of a public hearing involving a controversial alcohol bill - missing from files in the Utah House of Representatives - will ever be recovered or the thief caught, says Speaker of the House Nolan Karras, R-Roy.
"But if we do, we will press the case to the fullest extent," he said.Capitol Hill security officers began an investigation into the missing recording Tuesday at the request of House officials, who are certain the tape has been stolen rather than misplaced.
"A secretary had it the night before, and the next morning it was missing," Karras said. "They've looked high and low and can't find it."
It's not what's recorded on the missing tape that is important, said Karras. "It's that someone would dare trifle with the legislative process. It's a real concern that someone would take the tape."
The tape contained testimony given during a Feb. 8 meeting of the House Transportation and Public Safety Committee. At issue was HB132, a measure sponsored by House Minority Leader Mike Dmi-trich, D-Price, that would have permitted passengers in charter buses and limousines to consume alcohol.
Such consumption has long been a practice in Utah, but it was recently brought to the attention of the Department of Public Safety that it is illegal under Utah's open container law.
The bill passed the committee and the House but died in the Senate. Some proponents say that representatives of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints contacted lawmakers and stopped the bill's progress, but church officials said they were only clarifying the position they had earlier stated on the measure. In a statement released Tuesday, the church said "Concern was expressed that this proposal should be given careful study to determine its anticipated effects and potential for enforcement prior to its enactment."
Rusty Anderson, the owner of a limousine service, has threatened to sue the church over its intervention, saying church representatives were unregistered lobbyists.
Karras said too much has been made about the contents of the tape, when in fact the content is insignificant. The meeting was conducted in the open, testimony was given by both proponents and opponents and the committee later approved the minutes of the committee meeting, Karras said.