Senate passes liquor privatization bill, sending it to House

In a historic vote, the state Senate on Tuesday voted 27-22 to pass a House-Senate GOP-backed liquor privatization bill and send it to the House for consideration.

The bill, which passed solely on Republican votes, would provide for wine and liquor sales at grocery stores, hotels and beer distributors and eventually lead to closure of state stores. It also would have the state divest itself from the wholesale liquor system.

Arguing for the legislation’s passage, Senate President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati, R-Jefferson County, said, “It gives the people of Pennsylvania what they want. It gets the state out of the liquor business once and for all.”

Scarnati said privatization “gives convenience that Pennsylvanians crave” but Democratic senators argued it also could result in increased access to alcohol in neighborhoods and communities where it is not needed as well as lead to less control over the sale of alcohol to minors.

Besides that, they said the legislation, which is projected to result in a net $220 million increase in revenue next year, sells off this state asset for an undervalued amount.

“When you control an asset of this kind, you don’t sell it for fool’s gold,” said Senate Democratic Appropriations Committee Vince Hughes of Philadelphia.

But Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Pat Browne, R-Lehigh County, said the bill presents “a positive fiscal valuation for our system” that gives extra merits to the move to privatize the system.

Author: Jan MurphyPublication: PennLive