Pennsylvania House approves liquor privatization bill
HARRISBURG — The state House on Thursday night approved a liquor privatization bill aimed at eliminating the state stores and allowing wine to be sold in grocery stores.
It was the first time in state history such a bill cleared the House.
The bill pushed by Republican Gov. Tom Corbett and House Majority Leader Mike Turzai, R-Bradford Woods, would phase out 600 state stores and allow wine sales in grocery stores, along with beer, if the store has an “R” or restaurant license. It would give beer distributors the first chance to purchase 1,200 licenses that would make them the focal point of one-stop shopping. The distributors would be able to sell beer, wine and liquor.
The bill was approved by a 105-90 margin.
Until Thursday, neither the House nor the Senate had approved legislation allowing private sector wine and spirit sales, forbidden since the state took control in 1933 following the end of Prohibition.
“It's huge. It's historic,” said Joseph DiSarro, chairman of the political science department at Washington and Jefferson College. The current system “is just so anachronistic and inconvenient for the average person.”
The outlook in the state Senate is uncertain. There is some support for privatization among Senate Republicans, but many GOP caucus members prefer “modernization” — keeping and improving the state stores, said Senate Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi, R-Delaware County.
House Liquor Chairman John Taylor, R-Philadelphia, predicted an eventual compromise between the House and Senate on how wine and spirits are sold.
Corbett said he and House leaders must “convince the Senate now is the time to move Pennsylvania into the 21st century.”
The governor is halfway to doing something former Republican Govs. Dick Thornburgh and Tom Ridge were unable to do in privatization efforts in 1983 and 1997, respectively.
“Every Republican governor in recent history has tried it but couldn't do it,” DiSarro said.
If successful in the Senate, “it ends the state-run liquor system, which is not a core function of state government,” Corbett said.
The state's residents deserve the same convenience enjoyed by those in 48 other states, Corbett said. Utah and Pennsylvania control wholesale and retail sales.
Pennsylvanians “want convenience, not chaos,” said House Minority Leader Frank Dermody, D-Oakmont. “This bill makes no sense. It truly is March madness.”
“The proposal as amended and here on the floor today is an A-plus product,” Turzai said.
Opponents argue that the bill will cost thousands of state store jobs and increase crime and domestic violence.
The state stores employ about 3,500 clerks. The United Food and Commercial Workers, the union representing clerks, has been the leading opponent.
“There's no good reason to put 3,500 UFCW members on the unemployment line,” said Wendell W. Young IV, who also serves as president of the UFCW PA Wine and Spirits Council.
Turzai and other supporters say state store clerks have skills and knowledge that will be sought by private employers. The bill provides tax credits for businesses that hire displaced workers and civil service preferences for those laid off.
“There are going to be thousands of new private sector jobs,” Turzai said.
House Appropriations Chairman Bill Adolph, R-Delaware County, said license sales will bring in $1.1 billion.
The Senate will carefully consider the liquor privatization bill approved by the House, but Senate Republicans are likely to change the legislation, Pileggi said.
“I don't think anyone expects the Senate to take up the House bill and pass it as is,” he said.
“It's clear there are a large number of Senate Republicans who believe modernization should be the first element of the bill,” Pileggi told reporters in a conference call. He was referring to proposals to improve operations of the state-owned stores and make them more profitable, such as authorizing pricing flexibility and expanding Sunday sales.
The Senate will hold hearings and consider the legislation during the next 30 to 60 days, he said.
Brad Bumsted is state Capitol reporter for Trib Total Media.He can be reached at 717-787-1405 and email@example.com.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- 121 tourists stranded on schooner near Statue of Liberty
- Penn State rolls past Massachusetts
- Steelers notebook: Panthers LB Kuechly making an impression
- Robinson: Study shows NFL troublemakers don’t get hurt in wallet
- Hill District leaders irked as Penguins submit former Civic Arena site plan to city
- Play to watch: Inside zone read slant/bubble
- Climate change tops debt as budget threat, feds say
- Pirates find a bridge at end of baseball world
- Pitt notebook: Boyd has breakout performance in loss
- Lending challenges, rehab costs thwart efforts to revitalize
- Pitt blows 10-point lead as Iowa rallies for win