Towanda Daily Review
State officials would face a busy schedule transforming the state-owned liquor sales monopoly into a private enterprise system under legislation formally introduced by House Majority Leader Mike Turzai.
This legislation numbered House Bill 11 sets up a transition process that would move quicker in some respects if implemented than the state licensing process for slots casinos. It has only been available in outline form until now.
Turzai, R-28, Pittsburgh, has said action on his bill is a top priority when lawmakers return later this month for the fall session. The bill is at the start of its legislative journey, facing more hearings before the House Liquor Control Committee in the weeks ahead.
The measure provides that six months after enactment, the state Liquor Control Board and Department of General Services are to establish retail zones for 750 Class A liquor store licenses to be bid to big retailers and grocery stores and to assign locations for another 500 Class B specialty store licenses to various counties. The retail zones will be based on historic patterns of liquor sales and population density.
The two agencies would set up a license application, auction and awarding process during the same period. Officials would set minimum bid amounts for each license in the first six months.
The store license auctions would start within one year of enactment under the bill’s timetable and Pennsylvania would have “substantially” divested the retail store sale of alcohol to private entrepreneurs within two years. If that goal can’t be met, the legislation provides that DGS officials can obtain a six-month extension by certifying to legislative leaders that the timetable can’t be met due to circumstances beyond its control.
The bill sets a license application filing fee at $10,000 and further fees to recover the costs of investigating an applicant on such manners as any criminal background and financial capability. It allows for agreements with the Pennsylvania State Police and Office of Inspector General to assist in investigations. The bill may undergo changes as more information becomes available at hearings, Turzai spokesman Stephen Miskin said Wednesday.