By Tony Romeo

HARRISBURG, Pa. (CBS) — A Pennsylvania state senate committee today heard about the social consequences of increasing the availability of alcohol as it kicked off a series of hearings on liquor privatization.

The Senate hearings come more than a month after the House passed its version of a privatization bill.

The first hearing on privatizing liquor sales by the state Senate Law and Justice Committee featured familiar arguments about the potential dangers of relaxing liquor laws from, among others, Deb Beck, president of the Drug and Alcohol Service Providers Organization of Pennsylvania (at blue table in photo).

(Beck:)  “You’re going to be accused of being liberals. Look out!  You’re going to liberalize the sale of alcohol in the state of Pennsylvania.  If you follow my testimony, you can see why I think that.”

(McIlhinney:)  “Some of us have already been accused of that.”

(Beck:) “Oh my God!”  [laughter]

That quip from Rep. Chuck McIlhinney (R-Bucks County), chairman of the committee, apparently refers to the heat he’s been taking from some pro-privatization groups.

McIhinney denies sending any message by focusing on social issues in the first of three hearings on liquor legislation.  He says he expects to present an alternative to the House-passed bill in mid-June.

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