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State Senate Debate Highlights Law Enforcment Funding Issues

The Utah Senate chamber. The Senate narrowly defeated SB72, which had allocated $180,000 for the state Attorney General.

A bill that would have diverted revenue from alcohol violation fines to the Utah Attorney General’s Office was voted down in the state Senate Wednesday. Senate Bill 72, sponsored by Sen. Jerry Stevenson, a Republican from Layton, called for additional funds to help enforce the Alcohol Beverage Control Act.

Speaking to the Senate, Jerry Stevenson said that the additional funds are needed to help law enforcement keep pace with rising alcohol violations by providing legal support to the state Attorney General. The funding would have been capped at $180,000 per year.

“Senate Bill 72 takes a portion of the fines collected for DABC [Utah Department of Alcohol Beverage Control] violations and moves them to the Attorney General’s Office to enforce the Alcohol Beverage Control Act,” he said. “[This is] to keep pace with both the increase in the number of violations and also with the intensity of the violations, as people are cited for the second and third time.”

Critics of the bill cautioned against using fines to fund law enforcement. Sen. Howard Stephenson, a Draper Republican, said that law enforcement is a public good and, as such, should have adequate funding outright.

“I’ve been hoping that we can move away from the idea of funding public safety based on fines and forfeitures. Those are common goods to the people. Law enforcement ought to have the funding in its own right,” he said.

The proposed legislation was defeated by 12 votes to 14, with three Senators absent.