Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations
Montana politics, elections and legislative news

Lawmakers Find Errors In Montana Liquor License Expansion Bill

Liquor bottles.
Liquor bottles.

State lawmakers say a bill written in the fast-paced special legislative session in November to help patch the state budget shortfall has errors and needs fixing.

During the haste of the special legislative session, a bill that allows the state to sell 54 more liquor licenses didn’t turn out exactly how some people thought it would.

A small part of the budget fix during the special session was to bring in more than $6 million over the next two years by auctioning off new state liquor licenses.

But what lawmakers intended isn’t exactly what became law. Lawmakers say they wanted most of these new licenses to go to places like restaurants, not casinos with gambling machines, but the bill’s language isn’t clear about that.

Another error in the bill means that owners of the new licenses cannot transfer ownership of a new liquor license until after that owner is dead, which wasn’t supposed to happen.

John Iverson with the Montana Tavern Association says the bill he thought he was lobbying for during the special session isn’t the same bill that became law.

“As a result, my phone has been ringing off the hook from tavern operators and perspective tavern operators across the state trying to understand how this process will work," Iverson says.

During the Economic Affairs Interim Committee meeting Wednesday, lawmakers agreed to bring a new bill into the 2019 legislative session to correct the liquor license bill passed in the special session.

Lawmakers don't believe the errors in the original bill’s drafting will prevent the state from auctioning 14 more liquor licenses in 2018.

The committee is asking the executive to clarify the rules for these new licenses before they’re issued, although the committee supports the state going ahead with the new license auction.

Corin Cates-Carney manages MTPR’s daily and long-term news projects. After spending more than five years living and reporting across Western and Central Montana, he became news director in early 2020.
Become a sustaining member for as low as $5/month
Make an annual or one-time donation to support MTPR
Pay an existing pledge or update your payment information
Related Content