Liquor privatization moves forward in Pa. House - abc27 WHTM

Liquor privatization moves forward in Pa. House

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It was a sight as rare as snow in late March: a line of people winding down two Capitol hallways waiting to get into a Monday morning committee meeting.

But in this case it was the House Liquor Control Committee, and the topic was liquor store privatization.

So dozens of yellow shirted state store workers stood outside the meeting room, unable to get inside. They're members of the United Food and Commercial Workers' Union, and they've been frequent guests to the Capitol trying to thwart the latest privatization push.

Union President Wendell Young says most Pennsylvanians don't care about the issue.

"You know who cares?" Young asked. "The companies that want to get their hands on this valuable asset, that's who cares. Those greedy sons of b's. They want to put all these people out of work. Five thousand Pennsylvanians they want to put out of work."

Young also complained that there were only 22 seats in the committee room, too few for most of his members to get inside. But Republicans had enough seats, and votes, on the committee to pass a privatization plan onto the full House for a vote.

The amended plan would add 1,200 liquor licenses and give beer distributors first crack at buying them. After a year the unsold licenses would go on the market.

Grocery stores would be able to by different licenses to sell wine.

Liquor stores would stay open, at first, until there was less than a hundred stores statewide, then they'd be closed permanently.

Republicans hope to make history and have liquor privatization pass the full house, and that vote could come this week.

"I think that compared to last time, this has a very good chance of passing," said John Taylor (R-Philadelphia). Taylor is the Chairman of the Liquor Control Committee.

A similar measure passed out of committee last year but never made it to a vote in the House. 

Democrats blasted Republicans for ramming the legislation down their throats. They say it's a complex plan that's being rushed through the legislature on three days vetting with no public hearings.

"We're doubling the outlets for spirits to be sold in our commonwealth, and we're not increasing the enforcement," said Paul Costa (D-Allegheny), the minority chair of the Liquor Control Committee. "Again, we've had so many questions that went unanswered."

In a statement, Governor Corbett applauded the bill's moving out of committee. His spokesman scoffed at the notion that liquor privatization is being rushed.

"Members of this legislature have been doing this [attempts to privatize] for the past 40 years," said Kevin Harley, Corbett's spokesman. "Since Milton Shapp was governor so I don't know how that is rushed."

If it's voted out of the House this week, as expected, the liquor privatization bill would go on to the Senate, which has been less than enthusiastic about the concept. 

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