Bill To Increase Alcohol Content In Grocery Store Beers Undergoes Massive Changes In House Committee
A bill that would raise the alcohol content of beer in grocery and convenience stores from 3.2% to 4.8% was replaced Wednesday by a bill that creates a task force to study the availability and distribution of beer.
Senate Bill 132 sponsor Sen. Jerry Stevenson remarked that he was surprised the bill was being heard in the House Health and Human Services Committee because he views it as a commerce bill—not an alcohol bill. He figured it was for one reason: to kill the bill.
“I don’t believe this bill will pass here. In fact, I would be surprised if it gets any votes,” Stevenson said.
If that were the case, Stevenson said, he had other things to keep him busy and wasn’t interested in debating the bill—or its substitute, which Rep. Brad Daw proposed. The substitute scraps everything to do with alcohol content and instead creates a task force to study whether current law impacts the availability of beer and if increasing access to higher-point beer has adverse effects on public health.
Members of the public spoke to the first version of SB 132, with brewers making arguments for consumer choice and conservative organizations arguing that it would encourage underage drinking. But the main sticking point for committee members to pursue Daw’s substitute bill over Stevenson’s was how having stronger beer more widely available would affect suicide rates. Rep. Steve Eliason cited data from the Utah Medical Examiner’s office.
“Youth who used alcohol beverages in the previous month were 3.83 times more likely to have suicidal ideation than those who had never consumed alcohol and were 4.7 times more likely to have attempted suicide,” Eliason said.
The substitute passed out of committee unanimously. Stevenson’s original bill was propelled by national breweries phasing out 3.2 beer, as there are now only two states that cap grocery store beer at that level. Utah and Minnesota are the hold-outs.