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Idaho Liquor Division Chief: 'Captain Morgan Is Not Captain Crunch'

Jeff Anderson at the February 15 City Club of Boise: "You don't go to a toilet paper or toothpaste lounge at the end of the day to relax with your co-workers."

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Approximately 15 minutes into his presentation, Jeff Anderson, director of the Idaho State Liquor Division, pulled a Marco Rubio.

No unlike the Republican U.S. senator from Florida who famously lunged for some water when he was struck by cotton-mouth while giving a GOP response to last Tuesday's State of the Union, Anderson made the long reach for a drink.

But water was far from the topic at hand.

Anderson stood before a packed room at Boise's Grove Hotel as the City Club of Boise hosted a debate of whether liquor sales in Idaho should be privatized.

"We hope to have a 'spirited' debate, pun intended," said City Club moderator Marcia Franklin.

It wouldn't be the last pun of the afternoon.

"Captain Morgan is not Captain Crunch," said Anderson as he advocated for the state to maintain its liquor sales through state-owned and managed stores rather than convenience or big-box retailers.

"You don't go to a toilet paper or toothpaste lounge at the end of the day to relax with your co-workers," he said.

Anderson said the State Liquor Division shipped nearly 1 million cases of the hard stuff in 2012.

"We registered $154 million in sales last year, and we're on target for approximately $166 million this year," said Anderson. "We employ 350 full- and part-time people. And last year, we distributed approximately $63 million to Idaho cities and counties for education and alcohol-abuse enforcement."

Anderson's presentation began and ended with his argument that Article 3, Sections 24-26 of the Idaho Constitution required a state-run liquor authority, providing product while managing temperance.

But Gloria Toricaguena, lobbyist for the Northwest Grocers Association, was having none of it.

"I believe the industry should be regulated and strict punishments should be enforced," she said, but added the system was "outdated and inefficient."

"Government control should include regulation and temperance," said Toricaguena. "But I don't believe the government should determine liquor brands, where a store should be placed, operating hours or my shopping choices."

Anderson countered by saying, "Liberalizing the system would lead to increased taxes, increased prices and increased risk to public health and safety."

But Anderson softened his stance when he was asked about Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter's stance on the controversial issue.

"[The governor] recognizes there may be a need to modernize what we do," said Anderson.

When asked about the possibility of privatization legislation being introduced before the Idaho Legislature anytime soon, Toricaguena thought for a moment.

"Certainly not during the 2013 session, but in the next five years? Very likely," she said.

When asked the same question, Anderson retorted, "[I agree with] what she said."

It was one of the few moments of agreeement.

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