By John Celock
The Kansas state Senate narrowly approved an amendment that would allow for alcohol consumption in the state Capitol and surrounding buildings.
The Senate voted 21-16 to approve an amendment from Sen. Julia Lynn (R-Olathe) to allow for alcohol to be served at official state events. The amendment is part of a comprehensive alcohol policy bill that would also allow for BYOB wine at private art stores, wine dispensing machines and wine sales at vineyards. Lynn said she sees the amendment to paving the way for private events – including weddings – to be held at the Capitol.
“I know we’ve had vows said on the floor but not a full fledged wedding with a band and food,” Lynn said.
Under the terms of the amendment, alcohol would be able to be served at official state events in the Capitol or surrounding state owned buildings. The events would be determined by the Legislative Coordinating Council. The amendment would not open the Capitol up to outside events.
Lynn said she would like to move towards the Capitol becoming a catering facility, including for weddings and charity events. She said that it would allow Kansas residents to be able to use the building and would serve as a revenue booster for the state.
Kansas lawmakers have been searching for new revenue lines due to a multimillion-budget deficit this year. Lawmakers are exploring new taxes along with budget cuts. Lawmakers approved deep tax cuts in 2012.
In terms of official events, Lynn said that a desire to serve alcohol following gubernatorial inaugurations
Sen. Vicki Schmidt (R-Topeka) questioned Lynn on the amendment and asked for a definition of an official state event. Lynn said that the events are not defined in her amendment, but would rather be left at the discretion of the Legislative Coordinating Council. Schmidt said that she did not agree with that.
“This leaves it very wide open,” Schmidt said. “I guess the LCC depending on their mood or the LCC at the time can pick and choose what events can have alcohol at the Capitol.”
Schmidt also said that she had concerns over several other issues including potential red wine spillage damaging carpets and upholstery in the Capitol.
Several other states do allow alcohol to be served in the Capitol or other state buildings on a varied basis. Last year, Iowa lawmakers passed a bill to allow champagne to be served in the Capitol following a bike race. In addition last year, Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon (D) vetoed a bill that would allow for the sale of alcohol in the state Capitol in Jefferson City.
The Utah state Capitol in Salt Lake City is available for rent by residents for private events, with catering services available from a private caterer in an agreement with the state.
Governments around the country have looked to catering type events as a new revenue stream. Union County, N.J. has opened a restaurant and catering facility at the county owned Galloping Hill Golf Course in Kenilworth, while Essex County N.J. has leased a county owned building at the South Mountain Reservation in West Orange to a private restaurant, McLoone’s Boathouse, that includes a bar and catering facilities. Hyatt Hills Golf Complex in New Jersey, which is jointly owned by the Townships of Cranford and Clark, has a private restaurant and bar as part of the facility.
The Capitol amendment is part of a bill that would allow for consumption of alcohol at catered events on public property, along with new alcohol permit rules at the state fair and allowing for microbreweries near churches. The Senate also included the BYOB for private parties, vineyard sales and sampling and wine dispensing machine amendments. The Senate rejected an amendment that could have opened the door to beer and wine sales in supermarkets.
The BYOB amendment had been put into the bill by the state House of Representatives earlier this year but stripped from the bill by the Senate Federal and State Affairs Committee.
The bill now heads back to the state House.
Lynn said that lawmakers should look at the amendment for the entire state.
“This is not about having a flask in our drawers,” Lynn said. “This is about opening up the Capitol to our constituents for family events.”