Testimony on HB 338 (Alcohol Beverage License Amendments)

Utah_State_Capitol_2008Testimony presented by Derek Monson, director of public policy, Sutherland Institute, on Feb. 14 before the House Revenue and Taxation Standing Committee of the Utah Legislature regarding HB 338 – Alcohol Beverage License Amendments:

Thank you Mr. Chair and members of the committee. My name is Derek Monson and I am policy director with Sutherland Institute. Sutherland opposes HB 338 and I appreciate the chance to explain why.

The “policies of the state” when it comes to alcohol are plainly stated in Utah Code 32B-1-103. Though the bill before you doesn’t explicitly seek changes to those policies, the debate surrounding this bill is really a debate about the goals and merits of policies in that section of Utah law.

As stated in that law, one primary goal of alcohol policy is to “reasonably satisfy the public demand” for alcohol. I submit to you that HB 338 clearly does not meet this goal. First, in reality there is no significant excess public demand for alcohol that this bill would meet. This is illustrated by the fact that most of the establishments on the waiting list for a dining club license are already in business and selling alcohol under another kind of alcohol license. Beyond that simple fact is the reality that drinking adults in Utah have literally hundreds of options to choose from for their desired alcohol consumption. In other words, the public demand for liquor is already well provided for, making HB 338 completely unnecessary from this perspective.

Other primary goals of Utah alcohol policy are “to protect the public interest, including the rights of citizens who do not wish to be involved with alcoholic products,” and to “promote the reduction of the harmful effects” of overconsumption and underage drinking. According to credible research HB 338 does not accomplish these goals, and in fact undermines them.

The Community Preventive Services Task Force is an independent, unpaid panel of public health experts that seeks “scientifically proven” public health solutions that save lives, increase lifespans, and improve quality of life. In 2007, a team of researchers with the task force reviewed all available studies on the impact of changing the number of alcohol outlets in a given area. After identifying 30 studies from the last 40 years that met sufficient quality of rigor and research methods, they reported a positive association between the number of alcohol outlets in a given area and “excessive alcohol consumption and related harms” to public health and safety. In short, HB 338 actually undermines the public interest in health and safety and encourages overconsumption and its related harms.

For these reasons, we encourage you to oppose HB 338. Thank you.