- Associated Press - Thursday, March 20, 2014

FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) - Kentucky lawmakers wrapped up work Thursday on a long-sought measure that would allow local voters to decide whether to legalize alcohol sales at more state parks and golf courses.

The state Senate provided final passage, sending the bill to Gov. Steve Beshear for his consideration. The measure previously passed the House.

Most state park lodges and golf courses are situated in counties where alcohol sales are prohibited. The bill’s supporters, led by House Speaker Pro Tem Larry Clark, said giving local voters the option to approve alcohol sales at those parks or golf courses would attract more visitors.

“We’re optimistic this will give us some new opportunities to attract more guests … and generate more revenue that can be used to support the parks,” said State Parks Commissioner Elaine Walker.

The bill would allow residents to petition for the local-option elections. The ballot issue would be whether to allow alcoholic beverages to be sold by the drink at the local park or golf course.

Allowing alcohol sales would lure more people to eat at state park lodges and more business conferences to meet at them, Clark said.

The Louisville Democrat said he has been pushing the proposal for about a decade.

The state’s ongoing tight budget situation made the proposal more appealing as a way to boost the state parks, Clark said.

“The state park system is a state asset and we’ve underfunded it,” he said. “We’ve got to find ways to raise revenue and … this will help it.”

The bill was supported by Senate President Robert Stivers, R-Manchester.

“It has the potential of giving them an additional drawing power,” he said.

The state’s bourbon industry also sees the potential to boost parks attendance and promote bourbon-related tourism.

“With the skyrocketing attendance on our Kentucky Bourbon Trail tour, it only makes sense for visitors to experience one of our beautiful state parks and savor the best of Kentucky,” said Kentucky Distillers’ Association President Eric Gregory. “And with the growing number of distilleries throughout the bluegrass, we’re likely to have a heritage or craft distillery only a few miles away.”

Alcohol sales currently are allowed at four of Kentucky’s 17 state resort parks, according to Gil Lawson, a state parks department spokesman. Each state resort park features a restaurant. Those four that serve alcohol are General Butler, Jenny Wiley, Lake Barkley and Pine Mountain, he said.

Five of 16 state park golf courses now serve alcohol, he said.

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