SALT LAKE CITY – Utah lawmakers moved closer on Tuesday to adopt alcohol levels for beer that are in line with most production wells sold around the country, despite opposition from the influential Mormon Church.
The state's Senate overwhelmingly passed the measure to raise low alcohol limits on Tuesday, although it is expected to face more opposition from the State House of Representatives.
"We still have opportunities to go," said Kate Bradshaw, Responsible Beer Choice Coalition lobbyist, a group of manufacturers, distributors, and vendors supporting the change.
The proposal will increase the alcohol limit from 3.2 percent to 4.8 percent by weight, which means that most standard beers can be sold in the state.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has expressed concern that the increase is too high. Most lawmakers are members of the faith that teaches abstinence from alcohol, and church positions can hold unusual turns. Many local microbreweries also oppose the change.
Still, supporters have included companies like Wal-Mart, and the change surpassed the overwhelming state's senate. The Republican sponsor Sen. Jerry Stevenson has argued that the bill is about trading instead of alcohol.
"It is a reminder that it is possible to overestimate the influence the church has on politics," said Damon Cann, a political science professor at Utah State University. "The church, while clearly formidable as a political enemy, is not invincible."
Like other states like Oklahoma, Colorado, and Kansas throwing similar restrictions, large breweries have begun to stop making lower alcohol products, so the shelves are timber and damaged rural Utah beer-dependent stores, Stevenson said.
"I'm just excited to normalize our alcohol a little, and I think this will be good for Utah," said lowering Derek Kitchen, a democrat who identified himself as one of the handful of state senators drinking.
The state also hosts an active microbrewery community, many of which call the measure a narrow change that would unjustly force them to quickly change their recipes. 19659005] The Utah Brewer's Guild would support a bigger increase, but fears the legislation would favor larger breweries like Anheuser-Busch, said CEO Nicole Dicou. Most beers in Utah are sold in grocery stores and convenience stores.
Other critics worry the new limits are too high and may open the door to wine being sold in grocery stores rather than state-owned liquor stores.
Republican late. Lyle Hillyard, a Mormon and a lawyer who has worked in criminal defense, said he was against the proposal because of the increased risk of drunken driving and other problems for students.
"Most of these children who have never drunk before do not understand the effect," he said.