Governor Tom Corbett got a warm reception from pro-privatization business leaders and lawmakers Wednesday afternoon.
And he got right to the point.
"Government has no business selling alcohol," Corbett said. "We need to give the consumer the choice and convenience they want."
Corbett said he wants lawmakers to craft a bill by the end of the month.
To emphasize choice and convenience, two midstate business owners spoke and gave anecdotal testimonials about the need for privatization.
Cheryl Umberger owns Wet Your Whistle Beverage, a Lebanon beer distributor. She said she recently wanted to sample a single bottle of a new beer and had to go elsewhere to get it. Distributors in Pennsylvania can only sell by the case.
"If the beer lady cannot get access to one bottle of beer, we have a situation that's irreparable and desperately needs to be fixed," Umberger said to a roomful of laughter.
Scott Karns, owner of Karns Foods, said customers frequently ask to buy beer or wine with their groceries.
"I have to tell them, 'you need to go to a beer distributor or state store to pick up that bottle of wine.' It's important for me to service those customers," Karns said.
But wouldn't customers be served, and convenience be achieved, if grocery stores sold beer and wine? If beer distributors sold six packs while keeping state stores for hard liquor?
Senator Chuck McIlhinney (R-Bucks/Montgomery) says yes, and that would eliminate 90 to 95 percent of the consumer complaint in Pennsylvania. He made that comment after chairing the final Senate hearing on privatization last week.
McIlhinney is now writing the Senate liquor bill that's due next week. He says satisfying customers and constituents is more important than satisfying Corbett's ideology.
"Maybe across the rest of the state people are going to bed every night thinking why government shouldn't be in a core, fundamental business of selling alcohol, but that's not what I hear from my constituents," he said.
On Wednesday, I asked Corbett if he would accept a scenario where grocery stores could sell beer and wine but the state still had a role in liquor? He didn't reject the notion.
"My ears are open," Corbett said. "We will listen to everything, but they have to give us a bill that is acceptable, that gives the people choice and convenience."
Convenience and choice have been repeated frequently in the liquor debate. There's no question convenience can be improved without choosing to completely divest from the booze business.
And it might just be more convenient for lawmakers and the governor to make that choice.
Tuesday, August 19 2014 1:03 PM EDT2014-08-19 17:03:38 GMT
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