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Legislature to talk alcohol and education funding

Utah’s Mr. Liquor is back.

After taking a legislative session off from alcohol policy reforms, Sen. John Valentine, R-Orem, is ready to once again tackle the heavy task of addressing alcohol consumption in the state.

On Monday Valentine said he expects to address multiple issues in the upcoming legislative session in areas related to alcohol, mainly focused around opening up more liquor licenses for restaurants and hotels. He will deal first with the restaurant licenses in the Legislature’s final interim day of the year coming up on Wednesday.

“My guess is that the Wednesday discussions will be step one in any changes,” Valentine said. “What we’ll try to do is get all the objections out so we know what kind of problems we will have in the session.”

Valentine is expected to present his proposal to the Legislature’s Business and Labor interim committee. The plan would create a master license for restaurant owners to purchase that would be good for all the restaurants their business owns. Valentine’s plan would not increase the number of licenses available in the state but would free up the licenses as a business would only need to buy one license for all of its restaurants instead of needing to purchase a license for each individual restaurant.

Utah is often sold out of liquor licenses forcing businesses that want to open a restaurant in the state to halt plans until a license can be obtained.

Valentine stated that his proposal could be a single bill or part of a larger bill that would be released in the 2013 session. Valentine noted that he has multiple issues dealing with liquor laws that he would like to address in the upcoming session. He said he has been meeting with the usual groups he meets with when addressing liquor laws in Utah. Those groups include The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the PTA, Mothers Against Drunk Driving, and the state hospitality association.

Valentine, who is currently an LDS bishop, wasn’t completely out of the liquor business during the 2012 session. He ran legislation focused on restructuring Utah’s Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control. Valentine took the year off last session from alcohol polices to pass legislation that would give the DABC better oversight and accountability to Utah taxpayers.

Lawmakers also are set to discuss transparency in education funding on Wednesday. Sen. Daniel Thatcher, R-West Valley City, is planning on presenting a proposal to the Legislature’s education interim committee that would seek to increase the transparency in money being spent in Utah’s classrooms.

Thatcher is aiming to bring to light deeper details in how education dollars are being spent. The first-term senator explains that he currently can see how much a teacher is paid on a district budget, which is available to the public, but he isn’t able to see why that teacher is receiving the compensation.

“I can’t tell you if that teacher is getting a bonus for teaching AP classes. I can’t tell you if the teacher is getting paid for being an adviser for the Latin club. I don’t know how to get this information,” he said.

Thatcher argues taxpayers and parents have a right to have a clear understanding of how education dollars are being spent. He also argued that by having more transparency in education funding that the government staff and lawmakers would have a better grasp on how to fund successful education programs.

“At the end of the day we count on the fiscal analysts to give us the information we use to make good education funding decisions,” he said. “I have to be able to trust that the information they give me is as accurate as possible.”