SALT LAKE CITY — Utah is the only state that requires people to fill out an application and pay a fee before entering a bar.
But the shelf life of this law — enacted 40 years ago in a state where nearly two out of three residents are members of a religion that shuns drinking — appears to be dwindling.
In Utah, and across the country, governors and lawmakers faced with budget deficits are advocating loosening laws that restrict alcohol consumption in the hopes of boosting tax revenues.
– In Georgia, Connecticut, Indiana, Texas, Alabama and Minnesota, lawmakers are considering legislation this year that would end the ban on Sunday liquor sales. All but 15 states sell booze on Sundays.
– In Nebraska, a state lawmaker has proposed allowing beer to be consumed in state parks as a way to boost tourism.
– Other states, including Utah, are considering allowing the sale of liquor on Election Day.
Drinkers shouldn’t break out the bubbly just yet: Two dozen states, including California, Massachusetts, Oklahoma and Virginia, are looking to help their budgets by raising alcohol taxes.
Earlier this month, distillers in Kentucky poured bottles of bourbon on the statehouse steps there to protest a proposed tax increase.
In Pittsburgh, a 10 percent tax placed on alcohol last year inspired an animated satire, resulted in some bars printing signs saying the tax’s architect was not welcome and one restaurateur challenging Allegheny County Executive Dan Onorato to a charity boxing match.
Ben Jenkins, a spokesman for the Distilled Spirits Council, said states would be better off if they simply made alcohol more accessible to meet consumer demand. States that lift the ban on Sunday sales see a 5 percent to 8 percent annual sales increase, he said.
Other states, meanwhile, are trying to eliminate much less onerous hassles associated with buying alcohol.
In Colorado and Kansas, grocery stores are fighting for the right to sell full-strength beer. Most of the opposition in those states isn’t coming from morality groups, but instead from liquor stores who like having a corner on the market.
A similar effort is occurring in Tennessee, where lawmakers are considering allowing the sale of wine in supermarkets.
In Alabama, a proposal to raise the amount of alcohol allowed in beer from 6 percent alcohol by volume to 13.9 percent is being considered, although some church groups fear it would result in people getting drunker quicker.
Incredible. Here you have a hard liquid drug that directly caused 21,634 deaths in 2005 just from poisoning the body’s organs, led to 11,754 fatal auto crashes in 2007, and addicted 14 million Americans, and the states are frantically trying to increase this drug’s use and available potency, even as we’ve been somewhat successful in reducing this drug’s use. And yes, alcohol is a hard drug. In my definition, “drug” = “manufactured intoxicant” and “hard” = “toxic and addictive”.
But nobody will speak about the elephant in the room — the untapped, untaxed marijuana market that kills and poisons no one. Jeffrey Miron of Harvard University estimated that the revenue from taxation and savings from no longer arresting, prosecuting, and imprisoning marijuana consumers would range from $10-$14 billion annually – and that doesn’t count revenues from spin-off industries like hemp and associated payroll and sales tax revenues. Dale Gieringer of California NORML estimates California alone would reap $8-$13 billion annually when all new jobs and taxes from legalized marijuana are realized.
I’ll never understand people who are afraid of legalized marijuana but accept bars with parking lots as normal.