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February 26, 2013 | By | Posted in WatchBlog

WATCHBLOG: Liquor Control Committee will make changes to privatization plan, chairman promises

By Eric Boehm | PA Independent

HARRISBURG – The Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board had what some hope is its last budget hearing in the state House on Tuesday morning.

FIRST STEP: State Rep. John Taylor, R-Philadelphia, holds the key to the future of the liquor privatization plan.

House Majority Leader Mike Turzai, R-Allegheny, announced last week that he will be introducing a plan to allow wine and beer to be sold in grocery stores and elsewhere (full details here), but before you start popping those corks over the news that the state-run liquor monopoly is headed for the trash heap, remember the bill has to actually make it through the General Assembly.

And even though both the state House and state Senate are controlled by Republicans, it’s no slam dunk.

The first major hurdle after the bill gets introduced on March 4 will be the House Liquor Control CommitteeRecent attempts to privatize the liquor stores have stumbled there, in part because the committee’s chairman, state Rep. John Taylor, the lone Republican member of the General Assembly from Philadelphia, has not been on the same page with Turzai and Corbett.

Following the budget hearing Tuesday, Taylor said he “might be a cosponsor of (Turzai’s) bill, but you can bet we’re going to change parts of it.”

Specifically, Taylor said he wants to examine the timetable, including which parts of the multi-level privatization plan would go into effect immediately and which might have to wait a few years.  He said his goal is to avoid the chaotic process some other states have fallen victim to when they did away with similar liquor monopolies.

“It seems like we’re going to agree on most of it, but the speed of what we’re doing is really a big part of it,” Taylor said.

But Pennsylvanians have been dealing with the PLCB for some 80 years since the end of Prohibition, so what’s another couple of years in the grand scheme of things, right?

For what it’s worth, Turzai’s office confirms they are on the same track with Taylor and open to some changes to the bill.

And lawmakers aiming to kill the PLCB and privatize the state liquor stores this year were surely heartened to hear new PLCB Chairman Joseph Brion say he supports privatization from a philosophical point of view – though he made it clear that as long as the state is in the business of selling liquor, he believes it should do so in the most efficient and effective way possible.

Boehm can be reached at Eric@PAIndependent.com and follow @PAIndependent on Twitter for more.

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Eric Boehm is a reporter for PA Independent. He can be reached at Eric@PAIndependent.com or at (717) 350-0963.

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