“I can now confirm (to UtahPolicy) that if there is a special session I’d like to put the issue of quotas on that call,” Valentine said Thursday.
GOP Gov. Gary Herbert and legislative leaders have all but decided that there must be a special session to transfer $25 million around within the huge public school budget for the new fiscal year – which begins July 1.
In last month’s legislative leadership meetings, Jonathan Ball, the Legislature’s chief budget officer, said while it is true the 41 school districts could just deficit spend on their share of the $25 million until the 2013 general session, school administrators don’t like to do that with just the hopes that later the Legislature will fill in the money.
A mathematical error made in the state superintendent’s office led to a $25 million shortfall in budgets earmarked for the growth in the number of new students come the fall school start.
Valentine tried a short-term fix in the 2012 general session to the shortage problem of restaurant liquor licenses.
Unfortunately, he has said since, officials underestimated the number of new restaurants opening this year seeking a liquor license.
Several national restaurant chains recently told the board of the Department of Alcohol Beverage Control (DABC) that they didn’t want to come into Utah unless they were assured liquor licenses for all of their new restaurants.
First, liquor is a big profit point to the chains.
Secondly, it’s not good business to have one or two restaurants in a state offering liquor while others don’t have it.
Ally Isom, Herbert’s spokesperson, told UtahPolicy that Herbert has told legislative leaders he will put a liquor license fix on the call “if there are sufficient votes to pass it.”
Herbert is differing to lawmakers on this issue, she added.
“But he doesn’t want to waste time and resources” through putting any issue on the call if it can’t be dealt with smoothly, she added.
Under the Utah Constitution, only the governor can call the part-time Legislature into special session; only he sets the special session agenda.
“I’m the eternal optimist,” said Valentine. “I think we can get a quick fix” into either a late June or August special session – and pass it.
“But I don’t have that power” of getting an item on the call. “I have to have the governor, president and speaker” on board with him, he added.
Valentine said he couldn’t share with UtahPolicy how he would make a temporary fix to the liquor license quota problem because he hasn’t firmed up the options with Herbert or Senate President Michael Waddoups and House Speaker Becky Lockhart.
Waddoups, R-Taylorsville, and Lockhart, R-Provo, have been out of the country in an exchange with the government of Taiwan, legislative staffers said, and only recently returned.
“There are some fixes” to the liquor license quotas “that are too complex for a special session,” said Valentine. “And that will have to wait” for the January-March 2012 general session.
But there are a few things that could be done now to help out license-seekers immediately, said Valentine.
The Salt Lake Tribune reported several weeks ago that there were 45 restaurants seeking liquor licenses, but only one license available.
Valentine said he doesn’t believe there are that many unhappy restaurant license seekers out there, but “there is a shortage of restaurant licenses available, that is true.”
During the 2012 Legislature Valentine passed a bill that shifted some tavern liquor licenses over to the restaurant category. It also allowed a restaurant licensee who was closing his business to sell that license on the open market, under certain guidelines.
That has allowed what may be called “richer” restaurant owners seeking a license to get one over a “poorer” owner who may have been higher up on the waiting list, several interested parties recently testified before the DABC.
“The demand for new restaurant licenses has increased faster that we were able to expand the licenses available,” said Valentine, who sponsored the groundbreaking liquor by the drink bill of several years ago – which ended Utah’s long-misunderstood private club operations.
Valentine said he has spoken recently with leaders of the LDS Church, who for decades have had an interest in state run liquor in Utah, about the fairness and economic development issues of accommodating restaurant liquor license seekers.
“I’ve also talked with MADD (Mothers Against Drunk Drivers), the PTA, various restaurant owners, the restaurant association, the hospitality industry folks – yes I’ve spoken to many, many groups,” said Valentine.
At one point, Herbert said one idea may be to just let restaurant chains purchase one liquor license for all of their outlets in Utah – that could help with economic development of more restaurant activity and jobs without changing the complicated population-based liquor license formula.
Isom said the governor was just speculating on the issue, while in fact “he is not driving this quota” fix issue.
If legislative proponents can get the votes to pass a solution in a one-day special session, then Herbert will consider putting it on the agenda, she added, but the governor “is not advancing this.”
While a number of House Republicans wanted a June special session, “that clock is ticking” and it may be too late for that.
“However, we are still looking at June, or maybe August” for a special session date, but nothing has yet been decided, said Isom.