What Happened to the Liquor Privatization Debate?
Wasn’t the liquor debate supposed to be done by now? After some energy at the beginning of the week, the House has scheduled more debate for, well, next week. And after that, maybe the week after. And so on/so forth/etc.
As punned by Capitol Ideas, the liquor privatization idea may have lost its fizz, but isn’t necessarily flat, yet. It’s just that there are so many other things to be done in Harrisburg right now—not the least of which is getting that pesky state budget done.
House Republicans gave themselves an unofficial June 13 deadline for getting that hot mess to Governor Corbett’s desk. That was yesterday and here we are, today—it’s still not done. The actual deadline for the budget, missed during each year of the Rendell Administration, is June 30th. According to PA Independent, Republicans are saying it’ll be a few days until they meet with the governor about the bill. Corbett has said he’s open to spending increases on his original $27.1 billion proposal. The Senate’s budget was $27.6 billion, which Corbett called a “ceiling.” Many groups across Pennsylvania, like the Philadelphia Government for one, have noted Corbett’s originally-proposed budget would be a disaster.
Anyway. Rep. Mike Turzai, who’s the big name behind the liquor bill, noted this week that that vote is “scheduled to run on Monday.” Problem is, he wouldn’t say whether or not he thought there were enough votes to pass the bill. If it actually goes to vote next week, it’ll be the first time a liquor privatization bill has ever made it that far.
The bill calls for issuing 1,600 liquor licenses, the first 1,050 of which would be offered to beer distributors to make for liver-damning superstores. Within 10 years, all state stores would be phased out and the remaining licenses would be sold to the highest bidders, which may, in fact, be some supermarkets.
As we noted on Monday, there are more than just a few groups opposed to this. The union representing state liquor store employees recently signed a new contract that goes through 2015. They claim the contract’s language guarantees their wages and raises, even if a state sell-off happens. Governor Tom Corbett says the opposite is true, and that you can’t force a private company to comply with a public contract.
Similarly, Equality PA put out a release on Monday noting LGBT people might be negatively effected by a state sell-off due to anti-discrimination laws on the books for public, but not private, employees in Pennsylvania.
As we’ve noted in the past regarding this issue, a combination of pro-union Democrats (it’s unlikely any Democrats, especially in the Senate, will support this bill) and Republicans afraid of liquor-store-on-every-corner fear mongering might prove lethal to the bill’s potential of making its way to the governor’s desk. Many have additionally claimed the idea would not, in fact, save the state any money at all.
The House spent several hours on Monday night debating the bill, and left with nothing really accomplished. Many legislators claimed people in their districts break the law, drive to Maryland or Delaware or New Jersey to get their booze, instead of going to a state store (People really do that? …Yes, they do, but it doesn’t make it less weird). And before they let out, Philadelphia Rep. Dwight Evans noted, “No one in this state has a problem getting a drink.”