Liquor privatization passes House, faces challenges in Senate

Harrisburg- The State House voted in favor of a facelift for Pennsylvania’s antiquated liquor system.  The bill, House Bill 790 which approves liquor privatization, now moves on to the Senate where the privatization water is a bit murky.

It depends on what side of the aisle you fall as to how you believe this bill will affect your purchases.  Republicans think it will give more convenience, better choices and lower prices.  The Democrats believe Pennsylvania is selling off one of its most precious commodities for pennies on the dollar.  Either way, privatization is one step closer to become a realization.

Some 80 years after the end of prohibition, the Pennsylvania House voted in favor of privatizing the liquor system which would essentially get the state out of the booze business.

“I think it is a great bill.  I think it is one that we can work with,” said Governor Tom Corbett, (R) Pennsylvania.

“It’s something we are very proud of and it was a long time coming,” said Representative John Taylor, (R) Philadelphia.

House Republicans lead the charge last night.  After seven hours of floor debate, the bill passed the chamber in a 105 to 90 vote.  Under this plan, 1,200 liquor licenses would be up for sale, with grocery stores now eligible to sell beer and wine.  Daily hours could also expand bringing with it more convenience.

“We are moving PA into the 21st century.  This is a significant step,” said Representative Mike Turzai, (R) Allegheny County.

“If you believe in privatization, this is not the bill to do it,” said Representative Mike Sturla, (D) Lancaster County.

Democrats prefer the idea of modernizing the current system rather than selling it off.  Party members claim the state would lose almost $200 million a year in revenue.  Four thousand state workers could be out of a job if this bill passes.  Finally, enforcement is a worry.

“The more you learn about this, the uglier this bill looks.  I think that once people get to shine the light of day on this thing, they will look at it go and this is one ugly piece of legislation,” said Representative Sturla.

House Bill 790 is now heading to the Senate for consideration.  House Republicans realize there will be changes but believe it is a great start.

“We recognize that this is not complete but it definitely shows there is support for the four cornerstones of the private market,” said Rep. Turzai.

There are two noticeable omissions from the bill that passed last night compared to the Governor’s proposal.  First, there is no mention of where the money will go.  The Governor is hoping to put one billion dollars towards education.  Secondly, House Bill 790 does not include gas stations or pharmacies as places booze is sold. Of course, all of this can change when the Senate gets its hands on the bill.