Utah's liquor laws need to keep moving toward "greater normalcy" so the state's travel and tourism industry can continue to grow, Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr. said Thursday.
"I think we need to continue to do things that burnish our image and take care of the obstacles that many perceive to be in the way," the governor said during the taping of his monthly press conference on KUED-Channel 7.
Huntsman is supporting an effort by the Utah Hospitality Industry to do away with the state's private club system. But while industry officials are attempting to change the law through an initiative petition that would put the issue before voters in 2010, he wants to move faster.
"At some point in time, there's going to be the political will such that we can get some of these things done," the governor said, noting he was able to talk lawmakers last session into increasing the amount of alcohol in most mixed drinks.
So he's ready to ask the 2009 Legislature to consider eliminating the membership requirements to drink in a private club, as close as Utah comes to a bar. Those requirements include filling out applications and paying a membership fee.
"Next year, we ought to take a good look at clubs. I know that's a heavy lift for a lot of people. But let's ... get it done. It does serve as an obstacle, and I think it does serve as a perception problem," Huntsman said. "I think it's about time we address it."
The governor said after the press conference that he did not yet have a sponsor for his proposed legislation. He acknowledged The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints likely will have a say.
"I think everybody's entitled to weigh in if they have a stake in this discussion," Huntsman said.
LDS Church members are counseled not to drink alcohol, and the church has long opposed what's been called liquor by the drink.
The change is needed to keep the state's $6 billion tourism industry viable, Huntsman said, calling for a move toward "greater normalcy. I think we will be there, we will arrive, when we have our travel and tourism folks say we're hitting the mark," and are competitive with other states.
Also Thursday, Huntsman said he will not make an endorsement in the 3rd District Congressional race between Rep. Chris Cannon, R-Utah, and Jason Chaffetz, who ran the governor's 2004 campaign and served as his chief of staff.But he did take something of a jab at Chaffetz, who said at the state GOP convention earlier this month that global warming, a key issue for the governor, is a farce. "I don't think returning a cheap shot makes for a good political dialog, so I won't do that," Huntsman said.