June 25, 2013
The push to privatize Pennsylvania’s liquor system is moving forward.
The Senate Law and Justice Committee this afternoon voted 6 to 5 in favor of advancing two identical bills that would open up alcohol sales to restaurants, bars and beer distributors and phase out the state-run stores over time.
“I put forth a plan like I said I would. It does privatize the system. It put the convenience out there for the constituents of Pennsylvania to buy alcohol in other places other than the state stores … It’s a starting point and it goes through this normal process this final week of the budget,” said Sen. Chuck McIlhinney, a Bucks County Republican and the committee’s chairman.
The vote comes as the deadline for the state’s budget deadline nears on June 30. Gov. Tom Corbett has said he would like to see some kind of privatization proposal on his desk before the end of the month.
The Senate committee took the strategy of amending two bills – House bill 790, which passed in a historic vote in March, as well as McIlhinney’s Senate bill 100 – to be identical.
“Really, just to keep our options open at this point,” said Erik Arneson, spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi, R-Delaware.
House bill 790 could reach the governor’s desk more swiftly. Time is at a premium during the budget season.
However, McIlhinney emphasized any liquor privatization legislation is not tied to the budget. In fact, he said he could easily see legislation passing in the fall.
The bills would allow 14,000 current license holders in the state, including taverns, restaurants and beer distributors, to purchase permits to sell wine and spirits. Under the proposals, the Johnstown Flood Tax would be eliminated and Pennsylvania residents could receive shipments of wine to their homes.
However, the bills would not immediately divest the state from the wholesale system.
The bills now advance to the Senate Appropriations Committee which Arneson said could happen as early as Wednesday before they move to the Senate floor for a vote. A vote could happen as early as Thursday, he said.
“It could easily get done if there is a compromise and a desire, on not just the Senate but on the House and Governor’s part as well,” McIlhinney said.
Source: The Patriot-News