Liquor Privatization Picking Up Speed In Pennsylvania As Bill Is Introduced

Harrisburg Patriot-News

The way beer, wine and liquor are sold in Pennsylvania could change sooner, rather than later, according to one key state Republican.

House Majority Leader Mike Turzai of Allegheny County, said today at a press conference he expects legislation designed to get the state out of the business of selling alcohol will move on the fast track. He said House Bill 790 will be introduced today.

“Because there is a lot of energy, a lot of enthusiasm … There is widespread agreement in our caucus,” Turzai said.

He said the House Liquor Control Committee will take up the bill March 18, and he expects the House will vote on it later this month.

He added the bill follows a proposal Gov. Tom Corbett unveiled in January which calls for selling off the state’s more than 600 wine and spirit store licenses and opening up booze sales in supermarkets and convenience and big box stores.

Corbett has said the sale would generate $1 billion which would be funneled into an educational block grant.

The fight to privatize Pennsylvania’s liquor system has been ongoing for more than two years. And it has had its share of resistance.

Just this week, Rep. John Taylor, a Philadelphia Republican and the chair of the Liquor Control Committee, circulated a proposed amendment to the privatization bill.

Taylor’s version would keep the state’s wine and liquor stores open, give beer distributors the first shot at wine and spirit licenses and allow grocery stores to sell beer and wine.

Support in the Senate is also questionable. Earlier this year, state Sen. Chuck McIlhinney, a Republican from Bucks County, came out against privatization and introduced a bill to amend and keep the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board.

Turzai said the House Liquor Control Committee will look at the proposal seriously and add its input. He suspects there will be some changes to the proposal but “the concepts and objectives will remain the same.”

“There’s positive change. Everybody has come to the conclusion we have to have positive change. We are just discussing the details,” Turzai said.

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