State House passes liquor privatization bill, 105-90
March 22, 2013 2:45 AM
State liquor store in Penn Circle.
By Karen Langley Post-Gazette Harrisburg Bureau
HARRISBURG -- The state House passed the liquor privatization bill tonight, 105-90.
What happens when it reaches the Senate is another matter.
In a call with reporters, Senate Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi, R-Delaware, congratulated House Majority Leader Mike Turzai and Liquor Control Committee Chairman John Taylor "for finding a way forward on this issue after over two years." And he said the Senate intends to take up the bill.
But he noted of liquor privatization: "It's not something that has been an item of active interest and discussion in the Senate."
"I don't think anyone expects the Senate to simply take up the House bill and move it to the governor's desk as is," Mr. Pileggi said.
GOP Sen. Chuck McIlhinney, chairman of the Law & Justice Committee, which has jurisdiction over liquor issues, has sponsored legislation that would maintain the wholesale purchasing system of the Liquor Control Board while creating a new license to let holders of hotel and restaurant licenses sell wine and liquor to go.
Debate in the House began in the early afternoon on a bill that would allow allow private sales of wine and liquor, ends state wholesale operations and phase out state liquor stores.
Democrats on Wednesday tried to replace the privatization measures with a proposal that would have expanded hours of operation at the state stores, introduced more flexible pricing and allowed direct shipment of wine. When they fell short, they withdrew scores of other amendments and said they would reserve debate for the full bill.
There has already been criticism of the House version because it no longer targets revenues for education. When Gov. Tom Corbett put out his privatization proposal earlier this year, he touted it as a funding stream for education.
As debate commenced this afternoon, Steve Miskin, a spokesman for House Republicans, said supporters had the votes to deliver the bill to the Senate.
"I don't think there's a question," he said.
On the floor, Democrats said disbanding the state liquor business would unfairly take the jobs of thousands of employees while closing off a source of state revenue. Republicans argued the current system presents an innate conflict of interest as state government regulates and promotes the sale of alcohol.