Wine Liquor bottle on shelf blurred background

The House State Affairs Committee has killed a bill that would have let liquor stores give customers small samples.

Sponsored by Rep. Clark Kauffman, R-Filer, the bill passed the Senate 22-12 on Feb. 27. It would have let liquor stores give people quarter-ounce sized samples in a specified roped-off area of the store. Customers would have been limited to three samples a day.

Kauffman said the bill would help consumers given the proliferation of more expensive specialty liquors in recent years.

"Before you spend $50 or $60 or $70 you might want to see what it tastes like," Kauffman said.

Kauffman and Kate Haas, a lobbyist with Kestrel West, told the committee the bill contained numerous controls to ensure temperance and safety. The bill limited people to three-quarters of an ounce of liquor samples in a day, which Haas said is about half the amount of liquor that would be contained in a normal drink. Haas said a 100-pound woman who had one sample would have a blood alcohol content of .008, or less than .01, while a 200-pound man would be at .003. The limit to drive is .08.

However, the bill ran into opposition from lawmakers who disapprove of drinking, and the committee decided by voice vote not to advance the bill to the full House. Committee Chairman Rep. Steven Harris, R-Meridian, mentioned the state Constitution, which says "the virtue and sobriety of the people, and the purity of the home" is the government's first concern and calls on the Legislature to "further all wise and well directed efforts for the promotion of temperance and morality." Harris said the state shouldn’t “provide any encouragement, any aid, any help” to make it easier to drink.

“It’s a damage to society, said Rep. Randy Armstrong, R-Inkom. “It ruins homes. It destroys families. It does negative things.”

Armstrong said there have been too many bills introduced this year to expand access to alcohol.

“I don’t know how many bills we’ve had this session just in Idaho,” Armstrong said. “We’ve expanded alcohol to theaters. We’ve expanded alcohol to venues in downtown, and we’re doing just the opposite of what we should be doing in my opinion.”

Reporter Nathan Brown can be reached at 208-542-6757. Follow him on Twitter: @NateBrownNews.

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