Saturday, February 7, 2009

New 103-Page Utah Booze Bill Provides For ID Scanners, Bans Minors From The Bar Area Of Restaurants, And Does Away With Private Clubs

Welcome to the 20th century, Utah. KTVX Channel 4 got a sneak preview of the 103-page draft of the proposed new Utah liquor law. Here's what it does:

(1). Prohibits minors from sitting at the bar in a restaurant.

(2). Includes controversial ID scanners which have only a 17-day database.

(3). Does away with the awkward, clunky and ambiguous system of private clubs.

In addition, the bill will also do away with the 24 million DABC stickers put on booze bottles here every year. Instead, the million dollars a year those cost will be spent on DUI and other law enforcement. KTVX news video embedded below:

But today, we also found out why Senator Mike Waddoups (R-Taylorsville) has been so slow to embrace liquor reform in Utah. The Salt Lake Tribune has published a lengthy article about the travails of his wife, Anna Waddoups, who was clobbered by a drunk driver. At 9 A.M. on February 14th, 2001, as she was idling at a stop light on North Temple in downtown Salt Lake City, Anna was struck by Mark McKnight Oroszi, who crashed his Chevrolet pickup into her Toyota, totaling her car and severely injuring her back and neck. Witnesses said the suspect had been driving erratically and almost ran another vehicle off the road before rear-ending her car. She continues to be affected by her injuries today. "I used to be active. I loved to water ski, but I rarely get into a boat anymore, and when I'm with my grandchildren, I can't lift them up," she said. "I'll always have problems. I'm always dealing with pain."

But it's the justice system which added insult to injury - and hardened Senator Waddoups' attitude against liquor reform. Oroszi was charged with driving under the influence, a class A misdemeanor, negligent collision, operating a vehicle without insurance and driving on a suspended Nevada driver license. A month later, he failed to show up for the arraignment and the first of three warrants in the case was sworn out for his arrest. Since that time, Oroszi has been arrested for three other alcohol-related offenses.

And apparently Senator Waddoups is concerned that liberalizing Utah's liquor laws could unleash an army of Oroszis upon the streets of Utah. He's been careful to avoid "pulling rank" as a lawmaker on this issue, but it must pain him as a loving husband to watch his once active wife suffer every day. So now we can better appreciate why he's put up such a stiff resistance to liquor reform, and it's to his credit that he's willing to come around to a more reasonable position.

Salt Lake City prosecutor Sam Gill believes the problems lie in the enforcement rather than the laws themselves. "It's not that this guy is an anomaly. There are hundreds or thousands of other people like him," said Gill. "We need a better mechanism to catch these folks, we must be able to talk internationally, and we've got to have the resources to get these people down where they need to be".

Gill is right. Oroszi slipped through the cracks despite the existing law. The risks inherent in the proposed new law can be sucessfully mitigated through proper oversight and consistent enforcement.

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