Lawmakers assess liquor law overhaul, consider more Pa. privatization

    Under new laws

    Under new laws

    On the heels of sweeping liquor distribution changes enacted this summer and expanding beer sales just recently, some state lawmakers are considering moving to privatize alcohol sales in Pennsylvania even further.

    A House panel heard from several stakeholders in the wine and liquor industries Wednesday to see how the current changes are being received.

    The recent, widespread modernization of alcohol laws has put wine on the shelves of supermarkets; allowed beer distributors more sales flexibility; and opened many more liquor licenses to businesses.

    The new laws also gave the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board, which distributes wine and liquor around the state, the power of flexible pricing.

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    Once confined to a uniform funding formula, the board can now negotiate with wholesalers for better prices.

    It also gives it the ability to raise prices in state stores — something David Ozgo, with the U.S. Distilled Spirits Council, doesn’t like.

    “Now the PLCB is free to increase its 30 percent markup, thus confiscating any consumer savings and increasing the PLCB’s profit margin,” he said.

    Board chair Tim Holden said yes, flexible pricing could boost profits. However he added that “it’s not our intent to raise prices on consumers.”

    Other concerns include a call to classify wine and liquor differently under state law.

    Committee chair Rep. Adam Harris, R-Franklin, said that’s worth discussing.

    Harris also predicted that the Legislature may well look into privatizing liquor even further next session.

    “We obviously made a good step with Act 39 in June … the governor just signed a bill which helped with distributors selling six-packs, so I think we have some good momentum going,” he said.

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