HARRISBURG, Pa., March 22 (UPI) -- A bill that would privatize retail liquor sales in Pennsylvania passed the state House of Representatives Thursday after a long debate.
The measure now goes to the state Senate, which is expected to make significant changes, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported. Dominic Pileggi, the Republican majority leader in the upper chamber, said no one should expect the Senate to simply pass the House bill unchanged.
All Democrats and some Republicans voted against the bill, which passed 105-90, the first time either house has approved privatization. Tom Corbett, the Republican governor, has made privatization a major cause.
The bill would create 1,200 liquor licenses, with beer distributors getting priority with another 600 becoming available as the state stores close. Supermarkets and grocers would be able to sell wine.
"It is an A-plus product," Rep. Mike Turzai, the Republican majority leader, said after the bill passed. "I think Pennsylvanians, should it be enacted into law as it is, would be saying, 'Why didn't we do this 40 years ago.'"
Critics of the state stores say they offer a limited selection at high prices and that the state has an inherent conflict of interest when it tries to sell alcohol as well as regulating it. The state's enforcement was once notorious, with agents lurking outside liquor stores in neighboring states and following cars with Pennsylvania plates across the state line.