By Tony Romeo
HARRISBURG, Pa. (CBS) – In a historic vote, the state House last night passed a bill that would privatize wine and liquor sales and phase out Pennsylvania’s state store system. The bill, however, faces almost certain changes in the Senate.
It is the first time a liquor privatization bill has passed either chamber of the legislature. Opponents of the measure, mostly Democrats, predicted doom and gloom if the bill becomes law.
House Democratic Whip Michael Hanna said, “Arguing that input was heard from numerous stakeholders is no justification for a ‘yes’ vote for this disastrous proposal.”
But Delaware County Republican Bill Adolph said Democrats were predicting dire consequences from greater alcohol availability while at the same time advocating consumer-friendly changes as an alternative to the bill, “And you can’t have it both ways.”
Attention now turns to the Senate, where the majority leader, Chester Republican Dominic Pileggi, is signaling that the Senate is almost certain not to pass the House bill as is and is likely to make modernizing liquor sales a priority, as opposed to selling off state stores.
“Our focus – as I believe the majority of Pennsylvanians believe – is that we should be looking for ways to increase convenience, and selection at a competitive price.”
But in response to a question about the status of state stores, Pileggi said he’s not caught up in the “ideological” side of the legislative effort. Pileggi says he doesn’t believe anyone expects the Senate to simply send the liquor bill to the governor as is… and indicated the issue will not be on a fast track in the chamber.
After the House vote last night, Governor Corbett wasn’t tipping his hand as to how far he might be willing to go in compromising with the Senate.
“You want me to negotiate against myself in the public? Well, that’s what you’re asking.”
Corbett says simply he will try to convince the Senate that it’s time to get the state out of the business of selling alcohol.