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WEEK 7: March 5-8, 2018

The 2018 Utah Legislative Session brought the entire visitor economy to uncharted territory.  It truly was a Session unique in its own natures, and full of surprises at every turn.  At 11:59PM on Thursday, March 8, we could finally breath a deep sigh of relief and let our accomplishments settle in.  So, here is the Legislative Wrap-Up relative to the visitor economy:


1.     TMPF gets a $24 million dollar appropriation via the State’s General Fund.  This means more dollars for state-wide marketing and more money going direct into communities by way of the cooperative marketing program.

 2.     SB 136: Transportation Funding, Sen Harper: This will originally targeted an increase in TRT at 4.68% to fund transportation infrastructure throughout the State.  The bill then decreased the TRT increase to 2.68%, but in turn, targeted the short-term rental car industry with a proposed 2.5% tax increase.  The entire Industry rallied on this bill.  All in all, both TRT & Car Rental tax were removed from the bill in their entirety.  BIG WIN!  The Bill went through 6 substitutions and eventually passed.  The latest substitute bill does not have a new statewide tax increase for Transit.  Rather, it primarily changes the governance of UTA and renames it to TDU – Transit District of Utah.  The substitute bill grants every county a local option sales tax for transportation. The bill also includes a controversial increase to electric and hybrid vehicle registration fees.  The bill creates the "Transit Transportation Investment Fund" for future uses of statewide transit funding.

3.     HB 456 Alcohol Amendments, Rep Wilson:  The 2nd substitute bill passed on the last day of the session. Private Dining Club licenses were eliminated in the 2017 legislative session.  Legislators would not consider restoring a private dining club license or delay the implementation of the 2017 law.  Restaurant licensees required to convert from a dining club license will have a 3 year phased in process to meet the 70/30 rule for food to beverage sales ratio.  This bill was proposed by legislative leaders to make minor changes to the 2017 law.

The final bill allows two licenses to operate as long as they are not in the same room.  A room is being defined by the bill rather than leaving it to the UDABC to define a room by Rule.  Restaurants can start to plan if they want to create a separate room on the premise (restaurant) and hold two licenses.  Keep in mind, there are a limited number of bar licenses available at any given time from the UDABC. 

A restaurant license may operate with all ages accessing the restaurant license area.  HB 456 allows for a separate bar license adjacent as long as underage patrons cannot see the bar dispensing structure from the restaurant seating area.  If operating with two licenses, a restaurant and bar may share the same exterior entrance as long as minors may not see the bar from the restaurant seating area.. 

There is a small restaurant exemption to allow some qualifying small restaurants to seat minors within 10 feet of the bar structure when 45% of the restaurant’s seating exists within 10 feet of the dispensing structure. This measurement was recommended by DABC staff after evaluating a number of small restaurants that have a grandfathered dispensing structure.

To accommodate some current restaurant layouts, minors may momentarily pass through a bar area to reach a restaurant licensed area that a minor may be seated in.

SB456 requires electronic age verification within 10 feet of a grandfathered bar structure; repeals the requirement for restaurant licensees to display a sign stating the restaurant's license type; allows a dining club licensee to convert to a full-service restaurant license or a bar license before July 1, 2018 or choose to license as a bar by the same date; modifies Hotel licenses and creates an arena license that allows for limited alcohol portability from an on-premise banquet license.  The substitute bill allows for 18 year olds to bus tables at restaurants operating with a liquor license.

4.     HB 481: Donald J. Trump Utah National Parks Highway Designation, Rep Noel: This bill: renames the Utah National Parks Highway to the Donald J. Trump Utah National Parks Highway; and requires the Department of Transportation to install signage to reflect the name change.  Rep Noel pulled the bill after much feedback.

5.     HB 367: Transient Room Tax Amendments, Rep Noel: Passed - as a new substitute bill in the Senate, late on the last night of the session.

It allows a portion TRT in rural 4th through 6th class counties to be used for road repair and road upgrades. However, HB 367 2nd Substitute, protected the current guaranteed 2% of TRT that is required to be used on promotion in all counties. Rural counties can already use some of their TRT (above the 2% for promotion) to mitigate impacts of tourism for law enforcement, emergency medical, search and rescue and solid waste disposal.  Roads were added to the list of rural tourism mitigation allowed uses.

6.     HB 484: Winter Sports Venues, Rep Hutchings: This bill establishes the "Winter Sports Venue Grant Fund" to provide grants to assist in funding improvements to winter sports venues.  This bill was introduced on 3/2/18.  With the budget surplus and the desire to prepare Olympic venues for another Olympic bid, there will be funds appropriated to maintain and improve these sports facilities.

7.     SB 71: Toll Road Provisions, President Niederhauser: This bill is for modernizing all tolling functions.  Little Cottonwood Canyon is being evaluated for possible car pooling/ tolling similar to the I-15 HOV lane fast pass type tolling. On it's face, the tourism Industry has not indicated opposition to this bill.

8.     HB149: Department of Alcohol Control Funding Amendments, Rep Froerer: This bill modifies provisions related to the budget of the Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control.  Passed committee this week.  Helps dedicate funding for DABC store remodels or pay for new store construction.

9.     HCR 7: Concurrent Resolution on Environmental and Economic Stewardship, Rep Edwards: This resolution encourages the responsible stewardship of natural resources and reduction of emissions through incentives and support of the growth in technologies and services that will enlarge the economy.

10.  HB 181: Home Consumption and Homemade Food Act, Rep Roberts: This bill: defines terms; and states that home-based producers may be exempt from certain state, county, or city regulations regarding the preparation, serving, use, consumption, or storage of food and food products that are: produced and sold within the state; sold directly to an informed final consumer; and for home consumption.  Now passed, this could be very critical as Air BnB builds their “experiences” platform in Utah.

Full Bill Tracker with Final Notes: