Lawmakers are set to discuss legislation next week to privatize liquor sales in Pennsylvania through a constitutional amendment.
State Rep. Natalie Mihalek, R-Allegheny, introduced House Bill 2272 on Friday to privatize Pennsylvania’s state run liquor stores through a constitutional amendment that cannot be vetoed.
The General Assembly passed legislation in 2016 to privatize the sale of wine and spirits, but the legislation was vetoed by Gov. Tom Wolf. Pennsylvania is one of only two states with a government monopoly on liquor sales, and the only state in the nation to shut down sales during the COVID-19 pandemic, Mihalek wrote in a legislative memo accompanying the bill.
“Amongst many other flaws in various aspects of our government, the pandemic exposed our liquor system as outdated and the (Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board) as inept,” the memo read. “It has been 88 years since the end of prohibition, and it is time for this commonwealth to modernize the sale of liquor once and for all.”
HB 2272 would add language to Article III of the Pennsylvania Constitution that reads: “The commonwealth shall not manufacture or sell, at wholesale or retail, liquor.”
“I want to take the government out of the liquor business very simply put,” Mihalek told PA Homepage.
Mihalek noted several failed efforts in the state House in recent years to address aspects of the wine and spirit sales, including allowing beer distributors to sell wine and spirits, allowing private retail outlets to sell wine and spirits, privatizing wine sales only and the creation of an enhanced permit for spirits identical to the current expanded permit for wine.
“Additionally, the House Liquor Control Committee passed legislation I sponsored that would have simply increased the amount of wine sold by wine expanded permit holders, a common sense measure aimed at something Pennsylvanians have been wanting for years: consumer convenience,” Mihalek wrote.
“Each one of these consumer-driven and convenience-focused pieces of legislation have been championed and carried solely by the majority party and fought at every step of the way by the minority party and their special interests,” the memo read. “It has become clear to me that continuing to pass small steps in the right direction does not have the support, nor the will of both the governor and his accomplices. The best way to move forward is by allowing our constituents to have the final say on Pennsylvania finally entering the 21st century by ending government control of liquor sales.”
A hearing on HB 2272 in the House Liquor Control Committee is scheduled for Monday.
Because the legislation would amend the state constitution, it would need approval from both chambers of the General Assembly in two consecutive legislative sessions before it would be presented to voters.
The bill is expected to face resistance from Democrats, who have highlighted the $813 million in revenue generated by the state system last year, as well as thousands of workers employed by it.
“I’m here to defend the taxpayers and the employees,” Sen. Jim Brewster, D-Monroeville, told PA Homepage.
Brewster contends the legislation is at odds with a focus in the capitol on creating and sustaining jobs in the commonwealth.
“The hypocrisy in Harrisburg is so annoying to me. We brag every day about the creation of jobs and here we are with the stroke of a pen we could eliminate 5,000,” Brewster told the news site. “If somebody wants to bargain that away because they think something’s gonna get better, I’m old-fashioned, you gotta prove that to me.”
This article was originally posted on Republicans take different tact to privatize Pennsylvania liquor sales