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Michelle Stennett

Idaho State Senate Minority Leader Michelle Stennett stands in March 2013 outside the Senate Chambers at the Idaho State Capitol Building in Boise.

Conference centers in resort cities like Ketchum will be able to get a new, specialty liquor license soon, if the governor signs a law that narrowly passed the Senate Wednesday morning.

The law would allow each of the state’s 13 resort cities — which include Hailey, Ketchum, Sun Valley and Stanley — to get a special liquor license for a conference/event center, bypassing the usual population-based quota system. Only one specialty license per city would be issued, and they would only be able to serve liquor during a conference or event.

The bill had already passed the House. Sen. Michelle Stennet, D-Ketchum, said during Wednesday's debate that making it easier for towns like Ketchum to host events and small conferences would be an economic boon during the slow seasons when few tourists are in town.

“Resort cities need new economic development tools, because they’re struggling," she said.

Sen. Bart Davis, R-Idaho Falls, said he has long been opposed to specialty liquor license bills, and referenced his history of debating against ones that were presented by Clint Stennett, Michelle Stennett’s late husband who represented the district before her. Davis said the bill was too vaguely worded and could allow license holders to serve liquor outside of when and to whom the bill intends.

The bill passed 18-16.

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