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KYW Regional Affairs Council

“State Store Standoff”


By John McDevitt

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Lawmakers in Harrisburg continue to work on a plan to loosen the complete control of Pennsylvania’s wholesale and retail operations.

If Pa. House Bill 11 becomes law, wine could be sold in the private sector.  Is that a good thing?

The original bill was written to do away with state stores all together.  Now, the amended bill keeps the state stores — alcohol and wine sales stay there — while the private sector would be able to sell wine alongside the state stores.

Wholesalers could also compete with the state to sell to distributors, and that includes to beer distributors, convenience store chains, and big box chains.

This man, who had just finished a trip to a state-run liquor store in center city Philadelphia, thinks the new system would be an improvement for customers:

“People are looking for one-stop shopping — that makes more sense.  I know that there is a state revenue consideration, but I think when it comes down to it this is just a cumbersome process when it comes down to actually acquiring beer, wine, or liquor.  You have to go to basically two or three different places,” he said.

Political analyst Terry Madonna, a Franklin and Marshall College professor, has conducted several polls relating to state store privatization.  He’s not surprised that legislators have taken their time despite public eagerness for a change.

“This bill, as amended, would certainly pass muster with the public,” Madonna told KYW Newsradio.  “The problem is, it’s not just a top-of-mind subject.   If you go and you ask people, ‘What are the four or five real concerns that you have right now?,’ you are not going to see this on the list.   It’s just not a big priority even though it does draw significant support from the residents of the state.”

Moreover, the bill is not popular with employees of state stores, who fear losing their jobs.   There are also concerns about state revenue losses.  And many of the distributors are not happy with the $50,000 start-up fee to sell wine — not to mention the thousands of dollars for license renewal each year.

Debate on the bill is expected to start on the House floor this month.  KYW Newsradio 1060, CBS-3, and CBSPhilly.com will bring you updates as the process moves forward.  Stay tuned!

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