- Associated Press - Tuesday, April 7, 2015

BOISE, Idaho (AP) - A bill that would give more liquor licenses to conference centers in Idaho resort towns has cleared a Senate panel.

The Senate State Affairs Committee narrowly voted 5-3 on Tuesday to endorse the plan, which is backed by a central Idaho-based event center hoping to draw more people.

Resort cities often have a limited number of liquor licenses available because licenses in Idaho are granted based on the number of permanent residents in a town.

Kate Haas, who represents the Ketchum Center LLC event center in Ketchum, said the goal is to attract people to resort towns in larger groups than one family or tourist at a time. “When it’s just your year-round residents there, a lot of them really struggle during that season to fill those hotel rooms and fill those restaurants,” she said.

The plan allows only one additional liquor license per resort town. It also doesn’t let a conference or event center sell or transfer its license to another business.

But the bill garnered opposition from the two highest ranking members of the chamber, Republican Sens. Brent Hill and Bart Davis, who say the bill has technical problems.

“Words matter,” Davis said. “When I look at the language, it doesn’t say what you say it says.”

Hill also raised concerns about making sure the bill had enough limitations - alluding to the Legislature’s effort to repeal slot-like instant horse racing machines that didn’t match many lawmakers’ expectations.

Republican Rep. Steven Miller from Fairfield, who is sponsoring the bill, said he hopes the bill will generate business in the resort towns during the offseason.

The bill has already passed the House 40-28. It now goes to the full Senate.

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