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Pa. Senate Tackles Liquor Bill

Bucks County Republican Chuck McIlhinney. (credit: Tony Romeo)

Bucks County Republican Chuck McIlhinney. (credit: Tony Romeo)

(Capitol dome, Harrisburg, Pa.   File photo) Tony Romeo
  Tony Romeo is Harrisburg bureau chief for KYW Newsradio...
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By: Tony Romeo

HARRISBURG, Pa., (CBS) – With less than two weeks before the legislature’s scheduled summer recess, Republican leaders in the GOP-controlled state Senate have taken the wraps off their proposal to reform liquor sales in Pennsylvania.

The state House months ago passed its liquor bill and now it’s the Senate’s turn to tackle the issue.

The proposal from Bucks County Republican Chuck McIlhinney is different than the House version in major ways. While it would allow for private retailers to sell wine and spirits, McIlhinney’s bill would leave it up to the Liquor Control Board to shut down state stores.

“The financial viability of the store, their current lease situation, and whether or not the private sector has provided for the service in the area,” said McIlhinney.

But Senate Republican leaders say before they can worry about getting a liquor bill through the House, they have to find enough votes to get a measure through the Senate – something right now they admit they don’t have.

“Our focus right now is – and we’ve said this all along – what can we support with 26 members of the Senate? And then the next part of the conversation, is this something that the majority of the members of the House and the governor can agree with?” said Chester Republican Dominic Pileggi, the Senate majority leader.

While the Senate proposal will allow for private retailers to sell wine and liquor, it does not provide the kind of formula to shut down state stores that the House measure does. And unlike the House version, it does not mandate the sale of the state’s wholesale liquor operations. It would ease restrictions on the way beer can be sold by beer distributors and taverns.