PA House passes bill to privatize liquor sales

The Pennsylvania House last week passed a meas­ure backed by Gov. Tom Corbett that would take the com­mon­wealth out of the booze busi­ness. 

The meas­ure, House Bill 790, passed 105-90. All Demo­crats and a few Re­pub­lic­ans voted against it. The state Sen­ate will next take up the bill.

House GOP ma­jor­ity lead­er Mike Turzai said the bill “would re­spons­ibly privat­ize whole­sale and re­tail sales of wine and spir­its in a con­sumer-friendly way without tak­ing rev­en­ues from the state budget.”

Ac­cord­ing to a news re­lease from Turzai’s of­fice, House Bill 790 al­lows beer, wine and li­quor to be sold in one li­censed loc­a­tion. The le­gis­la­tion calls for the state’s 600 state stores to be phased out.

Cur­rently, state li­quor stores sell wine and spir­its, while privately owned beer dis­trib­ut­ors and craft beer stores sell beer. 

The le­gis­la­tion con­tains pro­vi­sions sup­por­ted by state Rep. John Taylor (R-177th dist.) that give beer dis­trib­ut­ors the first crack at buy­ing li­censes al­low­ing them to sell beer, wine and li­quor. Taylor, in an e-mail to the North­east Times, said the meas­ure was all he wanted. 

In a phone in­ter­view March 6, Taylor said he wanted privat­iz­a­tion le­gis­la­tion to pro­tect Pennsylvania’s beer dis­trib­ut­ors, 121 of which are in Philly, from be­ing swept away.

State Rep. Ed Neilson (D-169th dist.), like all Demo­crats, voted against the privat­iz­a­tion le­gis­la­tion.

He dis­puted Turzai’s claim that the state wouldn’t lose any rev­en­ue, and said it will cost $170 mil­lion an­nu­ally in lost tax rev­en­ue and thou­sands of jobs.

“As if the jobs and the lost rev­en­ue wer­en’t bad enough, the Re­pub­lic­an plan will also cre­ate an un­fair play­ing field that fa­vors big-box re­tail­ers,” Neilson said.

Neilson hopes the Sen­ate will look at mod­ern­iz­ing the cur­rent sys­tem, rather than scrap­ping it.

State Rep. Tom Murt (R-152nd dist.), one of the five Re­pub­lic­ans to vote against HB 790, has oth­er prob­lems with the bill.

“It ex­pands the sale and dis­tri­bu­tion of al­co­hol in Pennsylvania on a massive scale without any in­crease in fund­ing for law en­force­ment and pub­lic safety activ­it­ies,” he stated in a news re­lease. “This is an un­fun­ded man­date on all of our law en­force­ment pro­fes­sion­als across Pennsylvania, which is why the Fraternal Or­der of Po­lice and Po­lice Chiefs As­so­ci­ation op­posed the bill.”

Murt, whose dis­trict in­cludes part of North­east Phil­adelphia, also said the bill does not do enough to keep con­victed crim­in­als from go­ing in­to the li­quor busi­ness and there is “no pro­hib­i­tion on out­lets near half-way houses, day care cen­ters, and schools. Nor were there any re­quire­ments that li­censees be res­id­ents of Pennsylvania.” ••

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