Pa. plan liquor plan amended to phase out state stores instead of shutdown

    A key legislative panel has endorsed a radically changed version of Republican Gov. Tom Corbett’s liquor-privatization bill. 

    Republican Rep. John Taylor, who chairs the panel, presided over more than two hours of questions and answers on an amendment to scale back Corbett’s privatization plan.

    It would allow wine and liquor licenses to go to beer distributors and wine licenses to go to grocery stores, but does not call for shuttering all state wine and liquor stores.

    Instead, Taylor says, the amendment allows for a phasing-out of the more than 600 state stores.

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    “As we wind down stores through the addition of private licensees, when we get to the point where there’s only 100, then the entire system would shut down,” Taylor said.

    The amended version is, in part, an attempt to placate beer distributors, who opposed the governor’s plan to charge them steeper licensing fees and open up wine and liquor sales to big-box retailers.

    The measure would also allow them to sell smaller packages of beer, and would allow for special permits for Sunday sale of wine and liquor.

    A major part of the governor’s privatization plan allowed for $1 billion in education grants from the revenue collected from new wine and liquor licenses and other special licenses. Taylor says the changed proposal sent to the full House would raise less than that.

    Democrats are protesting they hadn’t had enough time to review the amendment, and are calling for hearings on it before more votes are taken.

    Republicans say the issue of liquor privatization has been debated long enough in past failed efforts.

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