State House Sound Bites

Capitol reporter Mary Wilson covers Pennsylvania politics and issues at the Pennsylvania state capitol.

Senate GOP looks for votes on liquor amendment

Written by Mary Wilson, Capitol Bureau Chief | Jun 9, 2014 5:45 PM
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A plan to liberalize the sale of wine and beer in Pennsylvania is under serious consideration by the state Senate GOP, about a year after the chamber last tried advancing some kind of overhaul to how alcohol is sold.

A legislative amendment under discussion would open up wine and beer sales to more private stores and give greater flexibility to state wine and spirits stores.

Senate Democrats oppose the measure, saying it would drain revenue from the state liquor system by allowing more private competition.

But GOP Senate Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi said some of the proposed changes could increase sales for the Liquor Control Board (LCB), which manages state stores.

"There is the potential for some lost volume, but that depends on how the LCB implements some of the modernization provisions that are included," Pileggi said. "So that has the potential to increase sales -- for example, with direct shipment and Sunday sales and more flexibility for the operation of the state-run retail operations."

The House GOP passed a liquor privatization plan last year that would gradually phase out state liquor stores and privatize wine and liquor sales. The plan being discussed now in the Senate is a far cry from that.

But the issue is still a thorny one for the chamber to advance, largely due to the many competing interests vying to protect their niche of the alcohol market.

A scheduled Senate committee vote on the proposal was postponed Monday.

"It's a work in progress," Pileggi said. "We've had a number of variations of different amendments to (House Bill) 790. And still the goal is to find a combination of provisions that will gain the support of 26 members of the Senate."

Given the Democrats' opposition, Republicans will be on their own for votes. They control the Senate 27 to 23.

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