Higher beer taxes for Utah?
Legislator says funds would go to DUI prevention programs
Dec 17, 2002 - The Utah Deseret News reports that upcoming state legislators' proposals aimed at cutting down on drinking and driving may also mean raising what are some of the highest beer taxes in the country.
"None of these are feel-good bills," said Paul Boyden, executive director of the Statewide Association of Prosecutors. "They are all substantive."
Senate President Al Mansell, R-Sandy, said he supports lawmakers preparing DUI legislation for the new session. "I'll back DUI bills that increase offender accountability and reduce the risk of impaired drivers being back on the road." Among the proposals: Sen. Chris Buttars, R-West Jordan, proposes a bill that tries to solve the complicated problem of drunken drivers sneaking through the system. The measure calls for courts and prosecutors to have detailed knowledge of multiple DUI convictions prior to a guilty plea. Those details about prior convictions affect sentences handed out for motorists who plead guilty to driving while under the influence. Sen. Mike Waddoups, R-Taylorsville, will try to raise the beer tax to give more money to communities for DUI prevention programs. A portion of the beer tax is supposed to go to cities and towns for this purpose. But with money sparse in recent years, the GOP-controlled Legislature has pilfered this money for other purposes, despite the fact that beer-tax revenue has increased substantially. Waddoups said last week he hasn't decided how much to raise the beer tax, already one of the highest in the country. Opponents argue more beer drinkers will bootleg their favorite beverages from Wyoming, but Waddoups said that's a risk Utah needs to take to get more money for DUI programs. A bill by Rep. Joe Murray, R-Ogden, allows a refund of the $200 DUI impound fee if a person is not convicted of DUI or if the vehicle was stolen. It also increases the current impound fee to cover losses through refunds. Sen. Karen Hale, D-Salt Lake, will adjust the law around the so-called "plea in abeyance" used in some courts to make sure no repeat drunken drivers slip through the cracks. In some specialized courts, a plea in abeyance is granted if a DUI offender agrees to stringent treatment, community service and other factors mandated by a judge. If the offender does what the judge orders, his record is essentially wiped clean.
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