Harrisburg, Dauphin County—Tuesday the House Liquor Control Committee voted in favor of legislation, House Bill 11 sponsored by House Majority Leader Mike Turzai (R-Allegheny), aimed at reforming the way alcoholic beverages are sold in Pennsylvania. This marks the first time that privatization legislation has passed out of a legislative committee, let alone had a vote, since the end of Prohibition and the institution of the current state store system.
“Today, the House Liquor Control Committee acknowledged the current State Store system is broken and beyond repair. This is a huge step for Pennsylvania consumers,” Turzai said. “Time and time again, the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board (PLCB) has proven how antiquated and out of touch the current system is – Pennsylvanians understand this and want change. The time has come to get government out of the alcohol business.”
House Bill 11, as amended in committee, now includes a package of reforms for beer sales by distributers, taverns and restaurants. The amended bill allows beer distributers to sell wine and beer. The bill also allows private wine wholesalers to sell products to Commonwealth customers. The PLCB would still operate state stores, which would remain the only places in Pennsylvania where consumers can purchase liquor.
Turzai said the next stop for his bill would be the floor of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives, where it would be open to amendments and further debate.
According to Turzai, the PLCB has a long history of public misfires, including storing bottles in tractor trailers in 100-degree heat; spending tens of millions of dollars and committing tens of millions more on a failed inventory data system; implementing the now-defunct wine kiosk program despite recommendations against it; and launching an advertising campaign about alcohol consumption, basically blaming victims for date rape. The lawmaker cited these examples as proof of the systemic problems of a government agency trying to act like a business.
“Only a business can act like a business and be successful,” Turzai said.
A Public Financial Management (PFM) study shows the PLCB’s profitability will continue to decline in the coming years and that only a privatized system affords the state the best opportunity for real customer convenience and optimal financial benefits for Pennsylvania’s residents.
The current monopoly system was created in 1933 by then-Gov. Gifford Pinchot, who said the PLCB’s mission was to make liquor sales “as inconvenient and expensive as possible.” Currently only two states, Pennsylvania and Utah, have complete control over wholesale and retail operations.