Pa. Senate approves 'historic' measure expanding private alcohol sales
By Brad Bumsted
Published: Saturday, June 29, 2013, 12:36 a.m.
HARRISBURG — The Senate early Saturday morning approved legislation expanding private sales of wine and liquor in Pennsylvania.
The proposed amendment, approved 27-23, would bring “historic changes,” to the sale of alcohol, said Senate Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi, R-Delaware County. Further votes are required in the Senate Appropriations Committee and again on the Senate floor — probably later Saturday.
Republican Gov. Tom Corbett, a leading proponent, called the Senate vote “an important step toward bringing consumer choice and convenience to the people of Pennsylvania.” Corbett said he looks forward to final passage and working with both chambers to pass “real reform” for Pennsylvanians.
Pennsylvania and Utah currently are the only two states with state-controlled wholesale and retail systems. Pennsylvania now sells almost all wine and liquor from more than 600 state-owned stores.
Supporters say the expansion provides the convenience demanded by consumers, while opponents claimed it will mean job losses and “social ills” from increased alcohol consumption.
“Booze on sale — in your community,” said Sen. Vincent Hughes, D-Philadelphia. “I guess the idea is to inebriate everybody.”
“As we have worked to advance this bill, our focus has been on the consumer — the average Pennsylvanians who wants it to be more convenient to buy beer wine and spirits,” Pileggi said.
Under the proposed amendment, beer distributors would be able to sell wine and spirits, restaurants and taverns with “R” licenses could sell wine in addition to beer. Grocery stores of certain size and food sales could obtain “R” licenses. Also, the prohibition against selling alcohol near gas pumps would be eliminated.
Pennsylvania breweries would be able to sell at farmers markets.
Sen. Rob Teplitz, R-Dauphin County, said revenue from liquor remains a key issue.
“If we needed to design a system from scratch today, few people, including myself, would design the system we have now,” Teplitz said. “However, the current system has been in existence for almost a century and the hundreds of millions of dollars that it now generates each year has become a critical component of the state budget. No privatization plan has ever been able to replace those funds for the long term. That's why I support modernization rather than privatization.”
There's a formula for determining when state stores will be closed. When private outlets outnumber state store by a 2-1 margin in a county, the stores would need to be closed within six months. The LCB, however, could take convenience, price, the profitability of the stores and other factors into consideration when deciding whether to close them.
The LCB under the plan would be empowered to lease the wholesale system for 10 years. Two separate studies would be conducted to determine if the system is meeting consumer demand in each county.
“We're very upset,” said Wendell W. Young IV, president of the United Food and Commercial Workers, which represents state store clerks. “There's 5,000 people's jobs at stake.”
Young said he was not conceding defeat.
It appears this “was political horse trading having little to do with the issue itself,” Young said. It may be part of getting the House to moving a transportation bill, which leaders have been reluctant to do, he said.
“I'm saying it looks like that to me,” Young said.
If the bill gets through the Senate in final form, the House — which has been more aggressive on privatization — would have to OK it.
Kari Andren contributed to this report.
Brad Bumsted is state Capitol reporter for Trib Total Media and 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.
- Allegheny, Beaver, Butler, Washington, Westmoreland counties weigh shale gas drilling on public land
- Worst of winter storm expected to miss Pittsburgh
- Pa. to vie for Boeing plant
- Grants aren’t the same old payouts, Corbett says
- Penn State to add cameras at main campus to enhance security
- Former postmaster pleads guilty
- Corbett seeks approval for Medicaid alternative