Legislation to privatize liquor in Pennsylvania passed the House of Representatives with ease, yet hurdles remain in the state Senate. Governor Tom Corbett's plan to go private has made progress, but will it become law?
In the spirit of March Madness, let's say Pennsylvania Senators now control the ball when it comes to privatizing liquor. Despite the full court press by Republicans, even they know passing the bill is no slam dunk.
After seven long hours of debate Thursday night, House representatives passed the bill 105-90, a landslide victory for Republicans. However, no Democrats crossed party lines.
The bill will go before the Senate Law and Justice Committee to be reviewed.
It appears most state senators agree on the concept of convenience, but can't agree on how to offer it to consumers.
Senator Pat Vance (R-Cumberland) feels most people buying beer, wine, or liquor just want the ease of shopping.
“Do people want to be able to buy beer and wine in a grocery store? Absolutely,” she said. “And the idea that you can't buy a six-pack in a beer distributor is kinda ludicrous.”
What's not crazy according to Vance is taking time to sit down and read the bill in its entirety. She said most state senators have not done so yet, so there's no timetable. If liquor goes private, Vance wants to make sure it's the right thing to do.
Senate Majority Leader Democrat Dominic Pileggi agrees with Vance, according to a statement.
Key Democrats point out the focus should be to modernize instead of privatize. Most would like to see state stores remain open to save worker jobs. Many propose to open Wine & Spirit locations inside grocery stores to offer convenience. They also offer longer hours, especially on Sundays.
While Vance does not speak for every Republican senator, she is open to the idea of that often-dreaded C-word: compromise.
“I would hope there's always room for compromise,” said Vance. “If we have both sides a little bit unhappy, that probably means we've reached a good compromise.”
In the cocktail that is politics, Vance wonders why liquor has suddenly become top shelf. She feels important issues like transportation are now bottom of the barrel topics. Vance said all four caucuses would like to see Governor Corbett tackle transportation before liquor.
As Vance puts it, you can't have beer deliveries without reliable roads.
“We always talk about creating jobs,” she said. “I can't think of a better way to create jobs than to build or at least repair roads.”