Members of Pennsylvania’s House of Representatives finally got their chance to debate on a liquor privatization bill late yesterday. Though billed as a historic event, because it’s the first time in history that a pitch to pull the state out of the booze business made it to the House floor, it never went to vote. No surprise. According to the Inquirer, the battle is expected to resume today. In this latest round, a revamped version of the bill that House Majority Leader Mike Turzai introduced last summer is getting batted around. Unlike earlier drafts, which only focused on the state’s 600-plus liquor stores, the most recent revisions brings beer, and those who sell it, into the equation.
The bill lawmakers debated yesterday still calls for shuttering the state store system, and placing booze sales in the hands of the private sector, but rather than simply auctioning off liquor licenses to the highest bidders, the new plan will give beer distributors the authority to sell liquor and wine, and first dibs on the licensing to do so. If passed, state stores would be phased out over five years, and in 10 years, supermarkets and restaurants will be allowed to sell wine and liquor.
While some House members applauded the new bill, others expressed reservations. Not surprising Democrats like Rep. Dwight Evans cautioned that the sale of alcohol requires responsibilities, and that a rush to privatize could jeopardize public-safety. Fellow Democrat Rep. Jake Wheatley voiced concern for thousands of displaced state store employees, and suggested that the bill go back to the drawing board.
The big surprise came from Republican Scott Petri of Bucks County, who called the latest Turzai plan flawed, especially when it comes to setting up protections against single owners from gaining too much market share, CBS Philly reports. “What this amendment does is change a state monopoly into a privately held monopoly,” he was quoted saying. “I believe we can do better.”
Pa. House opens debate on liquor privatization [Inquirer]
House begins liquor privatization debate [Morning Call]
Debate On Liquor Store Privatization Bill To Resume Today [CBS Philly]