Liquor proposal ripped in hearing
HARRISBURG — Thousands of people would lose their jobs and consumers would have less selection and pay higher prices for beer under liquor privatization proposals, an association for beer distributors told a Senate panel on Tuesday.
Officials from the Malt Beverage Distributors Association outlined a grim future for beer distributors during testimony before the Senate Law and Justice Committee. The committee conducted the second of three hearings on H.B. 790, a sweeping privatization bill approved by the state House in March.
The bill by House Majority Leader Mike Turzai, R-Bradford Woods, would phase out the state's 600 wine and liquor stores and issue 1,200 wine and spirits licenses. Under the bill, grocery stores could sell wine, and beer distributors could buy licenses enabling them to sell wine and liquor. They would be the “sole outlets” selling all three, said Turzai spokesman Stephen Miskin. Convenience stores, by obtaining a restaurant license to seat 30 people, could sell two six-packs of beer.
Grocery stores with a so-called “R” license now can sell beer at separate registers.
The legislation will “crush our livelihoods and that of our 12,000 employees,” said Mark Tanczos, president of the association.
While beer may be available in more locations under the legislation, Tanczos said, “there will be less selection, higher prices and in the final analysis, less ‘real convenience' for consumers.”
But not all beer distributors agree.
“A lot of the beer distributors, if they did know what was going on, I think a lot of them would be in favor of this,” John Karinch, a Lebanon County distributor, said.
“The way (the bill) evolved through the House, and the way it was passed in the House is one of the greatest opportunities I could ever hope for,” said Mike Ridinger, owner of Joe Beer in Edinboro told the Tribune-Review. “It gives me the opportunity to sell six-packs, 12-packs and not have to compete against the likes of Wal-Mart but gives me the opportunity to buy that wine and spirits license so we can be a one-stop shop.”
Cheryl Umberger, owner of Wet Your Whistle beer distributorship in Lebanon County, said she offered to testify but was not given the opportunity.
“What we know is that just saying ‘No' and trying to kill this bill and trying to keep things the same is no longer the answer,” Umberger said. “We can die a slow death, or we can have a voice in the change that's going to happen.”
After the hearing, Gov. Tom Corbett, a leading privatization proponent, issued a statement saying, “As we've seen in other states, a private system will unleash the full job-creating potential of the free market. If we are to gain the advantage of greater consumer choice and greater convenience, we must not do it halfway.”
Miskin objected to characterizations by the distributors association.
“If only facts are looked at, it could not be denied, jobs will be created under House Bill 790 and state and local revenues will grow,” he said.
Miskin claims the bill helps beer distributors continue to be viable in the years to come. For instance, beer distributors “are also granted the ability to pay for the new licenses in monthly installments over a period of 4 years,” he said “All of these provisions were put into place to help the local beer distributors who have followed the law for years.”
N.J. “Sky” Cooper, owner and chief executive of the Charles Jacquin Liquor Co. in Philadelphia, testified the idea that “private industry can do things better is not necessarily valid.”
“If private is important versus public, let's bring Google in to run the state of Pennsylvania,” Cooper said.
Brad Bumsted is state Capitol reporter for the Tribune-Review. He can be reached at 717-787-1405 and firstname.lastname@example.org. Kari Andren is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-850-2856 or 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.
- Observers mixed on grid backup amid carbon rules, natural gas uncertainty
- Home sellers are able to remain mum about violent crimes committed there
- Construction of $500M power plant in South Huntingdon stalled
- Upper St. Clair family’s efforts pay off as governor signs Down syndrome education bill
- Environmental groups win in open records case against Corbett
- Armed doctor’s actions in Philly shooting reinvigorates debate on gun-carry
- Wolf: Wealthy should pay more to cut school taxes