Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Cocktails and contradictions

Idaho's statehouse should have an irony meter that blares when the contradictions get too deep. The sound would have been ear splitting last week.

The House side of the Capitol spiked a proposed measure that would have allowed a hotel with at least 15 rooms, a full-service restaurant and convention facility to get a nontransferable liquor license. The bill, carried by Rep. Wendy Jaquet, D-Ketchum, would have evened the playing field for small inns competing to attract small meetings to resort towns like Ketchum and Hailey.

As it stands, the only way for hotels not located on golf courses or ski areas to get a liquor license is to pay sky-high prices for a transferable license whose numbers are limited by law. Forcing hotels to compete for group business without a liquor license is like forcing them to wrestle with one hand tied behind their backs.

Defeat of the bill was an anti-business, anti-tourism act by legislators who regularly insist they are pro-business. But its defeat wasn't about business.

Rep. Ken Andrus, R-Lava Hot Springs, opposed the bill with an impassioned speech about the evils of liquor and a vivid story about a girl killed by a drunk driver.

In the meantime, the House had approved and the Senate advanced a bill that would give the state nearly total control over where natural gas drillers may operate and leave cities and counties with none—all in the name of the economy.

So, while small inns in resort cities won't be able to serve a martini, heavy industrial gas drillers will be able to serve nearly anywhere a controversial and likely toxic chemical cocktail used to coax gas from rock. It doesn't come with an olive and may leave a nasty aftertaste.

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