Liquor Privatization Bill Advances in the Senate

(HARRISBURG) – Senate President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati (R-25), Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman (R-34) and Senate Law & Justice Committee Chairman Chuck McIlhinney (R-10) announced today that a historic plan to privatize sales of wine and liquor was approved by the Senate Law and Justice Committee by a vote of 7 to 4.

House Bill 466 – Amends the Liquor Code to divest the Commonwealth’s wholesale and retail wine and spirits system.  The legislation was amended in the Senate Law and Justice Committee meeting today.

Scarnati introduced the amendment which provides for the closure of State Stores, wholesale permits for importers, wine and liquor to-go sales in grocery stores, restaurants, hotels and beer distributors, as well as educational assistance for displaced employees.

“Residents across Pennsylvania have spoken loud and clear, voicing that they want to see Pennsylvania’s liquor system move into the 21st century,” said Senator Scarnati. “House Bill 466, as amended today, makes important reforms to our Commonwealth’s outdated liquor system.  This significant legislation will provide for greater consumer convenience of alcohol sales within our state, while responsibly and efficiently closing state liquor stores.”

“We have heard from many people time and again that the liquor system isn’t perfect and years of attempting to improve a broke system through fine-tuning and fiddling with arcane rules has proven ineffective,” said Senator Corman. “This plan provides a balance as it protects elements that are already run by private employers such as beer distributors, divests the state of wine and liquor business and adds conveniences for which Pennsylvania residents have asked.”

“The primary goal of this legislation is to offer consumers greater availability and convenience while significantly modernizing Pennsylvania’s liquor laws,” said Senator McIlhinney. “This bill is the product of years of study, debate and effort by members of the General Assembly, and I am pleased to see this issue moving forward toward enactment into law.”

Highlights – Amended Version of House Bill 466:

  • Removes Pennsylvania as the wholesaler of wine and liquor.
  • Creates wholesale permits for licensed importers of wine and liquor to purchase.
  • Creates expanded permits for restaurants and hotel licensees to allow them to sell wine and spirts to-go.
  • Allows grocery stores with licenses to purchase permits to sell up to 5 bottles of wine and 2 bottles of spirits.
  • Provides for the closure of State Stores once sufficient wine and spirits products are available at surrounding beer distributors.
  • Provides educational assistance for displaced State Store employees.
  • Brings $220 million in revenues to the Commonwealth for fiscal year 2015-16.

House Bill 466 will now advance to the full Senate for consideration.

“House Bill 466 will be brought before the full Senate for consideration in the coming days.  This is a piece of legislation that will truly move Pennsylvania forward. We look forward to timely passage and presenting it to the Governor,” Scarnati concluded.

CONTACTS:

Casey Long (Senator Scarnati’s Office) clong@pasen.gov 717-787-7084

Jennifer Kocher (Senator Corman’s Office) jkocher@pasen.gov 717-787-1377

Heather Cevasco (Senator McIlhinney’s Office) hcevasco@pasen.gov 717-787-7305