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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- Some members of the Utah Legislature feel they may have solved the dilemma about whether alcohol should be served at this summer's opening reception the National Conference of State Legislatures.
Hold it in a place where they can't serve anything stronger than root beer.
Republican leaders of a bipartisan legislative committee planning the July convention have asked The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints if they can to hold an opening reception in the church's Conference Center.
The Mormon church teaches abstinence from alcohol, so drinking in the LDS building wouldn't be an option.
"Nothing is decided, we're just looking at options," said state Sen. Pete Knudson, R-Brigham City, co-chairman of the conference's planning committee.
Lawmakers on both sides of the issue have struggled with it for months.
A majority of the Legislature are members of the LDS Church. However, perhaps an even larger majority of the visiting lawmakers will not be LDS and might want a drink.
State Rep. Ty McCartney, D-Salt Lake, also a planning committee member, says it's important to serve alcohol at all official social events at the four-day conference, which is expected to bring more than $7 million into Utah's economy.
"People are coming to Utah with a bias you can't get a drink," McCartney said. "Now if it turns out at the opening social for this large event that you really can't drink, I think it will start the convention on a very unfriendly note."
Complicating things is that immediately following the opening social, the visiting legislators will be treated to a concert by the famed Mormon Tabernacle Choir.
Proponents of having the opening social at the church's Conference Center say this will save the state money since legislators won't have to be transported to the concert. Instead, they will just walk across the street to the Tabernacle for the special concert.
But what isn't being said is that if no alcohol is served at the opening reception, Utah legislators don't have to worry about some visiting lawmakers perhaps having too much beer or wine at the social and then teetering tipsy onto Temple Square, the block that houses the Tabernacle and the church's holy Temple.
Some planners insist that not allowing drinking at one event wouldn't mark Utah legislators as bad hosts or label Utah as a dry state.
"It wouldn't send a bad message if you can't get a drink at one event," said House Majority Leader Greg Curtis, R-Sandy, co-chairman for the planning committee. "People said that about Utah hosting the Olympics -- that you can't get a drink here. But when people got to the Olympics, they could drink, and it was not a problem."
(Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)