New Pennsylvania Liquor Bill Goes to Full House
The Pennsylvania House’s Liquor Control Committee debated Gov. Corbett’s liquor privatization bill earlier this week in a session that went several hours, was almost postponed and eventually led to the passage of the bill by a vote of 14-10. It now goes to the full House of Representatives, and Rep. Mike Turzai, a long-time proponent of liquor privatization (and prime sponsor in the House of the governor’s bill) will likely bring it up this week.
The bill allows the state’s 1,200 beer distributors a year to decide whether they want a wine and/or liquor license and then offer the additional licenses to private buyers. Fees for licenses range from $37,500 for wine and $60,000 for liquor. According to PA Independent, conservative Republicans are already divided over the bill—and Democrats are almost universally against it.
The Monday committee was deeply divided (there were several 14-10 votes on amendments, like those calling for the out-of-committee vote to be postponed), with Republicans claiming legislators have had decades to discuss getting Pennsylvania out of the liquor business and Democrats claiming the current bill was going through too quickly. Many of their concerns were around the displaced workers from state stores, enforcement of liquor laws in towns where pharmacies can sell beer and potential state losses — and much of that language was actually stripped from the bill!
Philly state Rep. Brendan Boyle noted his distrust of pushing the bill through after having so little time to look at it. His introduced legislation, to postpone the liquor committee’s session until April 9, was voted down 14-10.
Rep. Tina Davis, a Democrat from Bucks County, noted she was “disappointed [the bill is] getting shoved down our throats in three days.”
“It’s been 80 years,” responded Rep. John Taylor of Northeast Philadelphia.
After the final vote, Gov. Corbett thanked the committee for getting it through. The conservative, anti-union Commonwealth Foundation noted in their oft-metaphor-heavy styled press release, “The Sun Rises on Liquor Liberty.” Critics, on the other hand, have often called the bill nothing more than union-busting legislation which may actually raise prices rather than lower them. Occupy Philadelphia, on their Facebook page, actually called on their followers to ask Rep. Taylor to vote no on the bill he got through committee.
“Liquor store privatization doesn’t just destroy jobs—it destroys communities,” Occupy put out. “Passage of HB 790 will mean more drunk drivers in the street, more booze slipping into the hands of our children and the destruction of family-sustaining, living wage union jobs.”
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