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Liquor Privatization Bill to be Introduced March 4

House Majority Leader Mike Turzai will introduce a bill on March 4 to shut the state liquor stores in favor of private retailers.

By Eric Boehm | PA Independent

HARRISBURG – House Majority Leader Mike Turzai, R-Allegheny, is circulating a legislative memo to gather signatures in support of his soon-to-be-introduced liquor privatization measure that would shutter the state-owned liquor stores as the only place where Pennsylvanians can buy booze.

The bill will be introduced on March 4 as HB 790.

The bill “will provide consumers in Pennsylvania with greater selection, better prices, and more convenient access to wine, spirits and beer,” according to Turzai.

His plan would allow grocery stores and pharmacies to sell 6-packs of beer and bottles of wine, convenience stores to sell 6-packs of beer and so-called “big box retail stores” like Wal-Mart to sell bottles of wine and beer by the case.

Licensing fees for those establishments would range from $10,000 annually to $35,000 annually, depending on the type of store.

Beer distributors, which can currently sell beer by the case and keg only, would be allowed to purchase an additional license for $150,000 to gain the ability to sell wine and 6-packs of beer.

Finally, there would be 1,200 licenses auctioned off to create private liquor stores, and beer distributors would be able to bid for those licenses to become a one-stop shop for beer, wine and hard alcohol.

The proposal also ensures the licenses would be auctioned by county and would ensure there would be at least as many private liquors in each county as there are currently state-run liquor stores.

Gov. Tom Corbett outlined the basics of the liquor privatization plan last month, but this is the first time the specifics have been put in black and white.  Corbett also proposed to use the revenue from the sale of the liquor licenses to fund a new $1 billion block grant program for school districts over four years, a proposal Turzai says he supports.

In the state Senate, Republican leaders have indicated they want to also pursue a parallel course of “modernization” that would keep the existing liquor monopoly in place but would open up some of the rules about who can sell what.

The biggest opposition to the liquor proposal will come from unions, most importantly the United Food and Commercial Workers, which represents most of the employees in the state-owned liquor stores.

Union boss Wendell Young IV said the UFCW will continue its fight to protect the jobs of its members, the revenues generated by the stores for all Pennsylvania’s taxpayers, and the communities that would be endangered by privatization.

the REAL VOICE February 27, 2013 at 05:16 PM
All you care about is Getting your Booze at a more convenient hours and a bigger selection. What do we have here a bunch of Lushes ?
xb mike February 27, 2013 at 05:34 PM
i like to know when the stores will carry (Popcorn Sutton white whiskey)
Michael Hicks February 27, 2013 at 05:38 PM
Hey guy. Why are you shouting? Tell us why you think privatizing beer and wine sales will lead to greater corruption. You may actually get an intelligent response. Try it.
Michael Hicks February 27, 2013 at 05:45 PM
Please clue me in to why it is "bad" for the state of PA to relinquish control of a business and introduce true competition? Shouldn't the fate of businesses be in the hands of free enterprise instead of government control? For one I am looking forward to the day I can not only see a greater selection of wine and spirits in our stores but also see the comingling of wine-related events at such stores (wine and cheese parties, upscale tastings, etc.). Also, is it really too much to ask a store to sell not only the drinks but then also acoutrements like Reidel glasses or even wine cellars? There are great possibilities in store for privatization. As for those who are decrying privatization for fear of current workers losing their jobs, I sympathize with that perspective. Perhaps in the effort to privatize the state can strike a deal with each new independent operator that they must retain current workers (at competitive rates, though) for a period of at least a year? Something can be done to ease the transition.
Michael Hicks February 27, 2013 at 05:52 PM
Sorry but change happens. They cannot depend upon status quo for their whole lives, no more so than what I can. Take matters into your own hands. Become trained in something else that's marketable and stop relying upon a Union to fix your wage free you from having to improvise, adapt, and overcome changes that happen in the marketplace.

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