Karaoke, ax-throwing sites want to sell beer
SALT LAKE CITY — At least one lawmaker thinks people should have beer with their karaoke — even in conservative Utah.
A new liquor law in the state has come under scrutiny by legislators and business owners after beer licenses were denied to a karaoke lounge and an ax-throwing venue.
Democratic Rep. Angela Romero said she plans to introduce an amendment to include karaoke venues among the new sites approved for beer sales.
She hasn't decided whether ax-throwing venues should be added.
The law represents a tightening of already strict liquor laws in Utah, where The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints instructs members to avoid drinking alcohol.
Yet, liquor sales have been increasing steadily, with $454 million in sales last year at state-controlled liquor stores. Sales have been driven by new, out-of-state residents and thriving tourism.
State liquor bosses have said Social Axe Throwing in Ogden and Heart and Seoul Karaoke in Salt Lake City don't satisfy the definitions of a "recreational amenity" contained in the law set to take effect May 14.
The definitions include theaters, pool parlors, concert venues and miniature golf courses.
The owners of Social Axe Throwing and Heart and Seoul Karaoke appeared before the alcohol control commission in April seeking beer-only licenses for new sites.
The panel denied their requests, saying both businesses might qualify as recreational facilities under the current law but won't under the new law.
Social Axe Throwing had been granted two liquor licenses last year for facilities in Salt Lake City and Orem on the understanding that ax-throwing was like bowling, golf and other activities, owner Mark Floyd said.
Governor signs sports betting bill
HELENA — Montana became the first state to legalize sports betting this year after Gov. Steve Bullock signed a bill May 3 for the state lottery to oversee a system of wagering through kiosks and mobile applications that could be running by fall.
Montana is at the head of a wave of states passing legislation this year to allow gambling on sports, and it becomes the seventh state to legalize the practice since the U.S. Supreme Court allowed it nationwide last year.
Colorado's legislature the same day approved a ballot question that will ask voters this fall if sports gambling should be legalized there.
The Montana law became effective immediately, and supporters expect to move quickly to get the system operating. The bill's sponsor, Democratic Rep. Ryan Lynch, said the goal is to have it running by the start of the football season in September.
The bill allows licensed bars and restaurants to have kiosks and mobile applications that can only be used inside those establishments. The Montana Tavern Association had lobbied heavily for legalization, and the measure effectively gives the association's members a monopoly.
Lottery officials estimate people will wager more than $65 million in the first year, which would mean about $3.7 million in revenue to the state after an expected 80 percent payout and expenses.
The profits will be mixed with other lottery revenue and go to the state treasury and to a scholarship fund.
GOP thwarts governor’s push to expand Medicaid
TOPEKA — Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly's effort to expand Medicaid in Kansas this year died May 4 when enough moderate Republicans bowed to the wishes of the GOP-controlled legislature's conservative leaders and ended an impasse that had tied up the state budget.
The House voted 79-45 in favor of an $18.4 billion spending blueprint for state government for the budget year beginning in July.
Democrats and moderate Republicans held the budget hostage, hoping to force the Senate to vote on an expansion plan passed by the House and favored by Kelly. Republican leaders did not budge on putting off action until next year and kept meeting with GOP moderates throughout the day to bring them back to the fold.
It helped them that the budget was a good one for Kelly, fellow Democrats and the GOP moderates, providing extra money for higher education and pay raises for state employees, though her administration had problems with how it allocated extra dollars for prisons. The Senate later approved the budget bill on a 26-14 vote, sending it to Kelly.
Expansion supporters initially were willing to risk the spending gains to fulfill Kelly's goal of expanding Medicaid health coverage to an additional 150,000 Kansas residents now.
Republicans leaders argue that the expansion plan Kelly backed would be more expensive for the state than her administration projected — $34 million in net costs for the state in its first full year. They also contend that lawmakers need more time to get the details right, control health care costs, and consider work requirements for people covered by the expansion.
6 complaints filed under anti-harassment policy
SANTA FE — Six harassment complaints have been reported this year under the New Mexico legislature's revised anti-harassment policy.
But the Legislative Council Service — the administrative arm of the legislature — said none of the complaints, including three instances involving lawmakers, has triggered a full-blown investigation, and several were resolved internally by those involved, the Albuquerque Journal reported.
The agency declined to disclose specific details or the identities of the parties involved in complaints in which a review found no evidence to warrant formal charges of wrongdoing.
One of the complaints was filed by one legislator against another, then dismissed after being reviewed by legislative leaders and an outside attorney.
Another was filed by a legislator against a lobbyist, and one involved allegations against a lawmaker by a legislative staffer. Both of those matters were resolved internally, said the Legislative Council Service’s attorney.
The other three allegations that have surfaced since Jan. 1 did not involve lawmakers and instead involved legislative staffers and administrators, and a state employee.
Formal complaints and informal reports can trigger an investigation under the revised policy, which was adopted by lawmakers in January 2018 after a slew of sexual misconduct claims in New Mexico and around the nation.
So far, only one complaint under the revised anti-harassment policy has led to an investigation.
Tests show police seized hemp, not marijuana
BOISE — A truckload of what Idaho police believed to be marijuana turned out to be industrial hemp, a newspaper reported.
A federal judge in Idaho approved the release of test results on May 3 that identified that 7,000 pounds of a green substance confiscated by Idaho State Police in January, The Idaho Statesman reported.
The 2018 U.S. Farm Bill legalized growth and sale of industrial hemp, as long as it has less than 0.3% concentration of THC, the psychoactive component in cannabis.
In Idaho, hemp remains illegal regardless of its THC concentration and possession carries the same legal penalties as marijuana.
The hemp was being shipped to Colorado after Big Sky purchased it from a farmer licensed by the Oregon Department of Agriculture, according to Big Sky Scientific CEO Ryan Shore.
The material remains impounded and Idaho intends to sell the truck, trailer and the crop, he said.