Mike Turzai

JMR_Photography / flickr

A proposal to sell off most of Pennsylvania's state-owned liquor system and its wholesale distribution network moved ahead with a vote on the Legislature on Monday, although its prospects to become law remain uncertain.

The state House Liquor Control Committee voted 15-to-10 to advance a Republican-backed proposal that was very similar to a bill that passed the House but stalled in Senate during the last legislative session.

The Pennsylvania General Assembly will go back into session Jan. 20 with new leadership at the helm. But much of the committee leadership is from outside of the Pittsburgh area. Of the 23 House committees, only two Republicans from the southwestern corner of the state are committee chairs.

“Committee chairs are very important positions,” said House Speaker Mike Turzai (R-Allegheny). “It is driven by seniority. The chairs in both parties are the most senior folks.”

Republicans in Harrisburg are still floating the idea of trying to take advantage of a quirk in the state constitution that separates the swearing in of the Legislature and the governor by more than two weeks. 

State Senate Republicans have a new majority leader for the first time in eight years.

Sen. Jake Corman (R-Centre) will lead the 30-member caucus for the next two-year legislative session along with Senate President Pro Tem Joe Scarnati of Jefferson County, who was re-elected to his post Wednesday.

Corman ousted Senator Dominic Pileggi (R-CHester), who had been criticized for not advancing conservative policies, and who many say has clashed with Scarnati.

A once popular issue is now falling into the background, especially in the upcoming gubernatorial general election: the privatization of liquor.

Back in January of 2013, Governor Tom Corbett proposed changing Pennsylvania’s liquor laws and joining the already “48 other states,” whose sale and control of wine and spirits rests in the hands of the private market. Utah is the only other state with controls similar to Pennsylvcania's.

The largest retail state liquor store in Pennsylvania opened Thursday – but not everyone is excited.

The expanded store, located on Penn Circle South in East Liberty, is a remodeled and refurbished version of the previous Fine Wines & Good Spirits Store.

At 17,674 square feet, it’s 35 percent larger than its predecessor.

The Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board (PLCB) aimed to make the store environmentally responsible by using LED lighting and offering to sell reusable shopping bags made from 60 percent recycled materials.

Small Games to Expand to Bars in PA

Nov 27, 2013

Supporters of compromise legislation that expands small games of chance in Pennsylvania believe everyone is a winner, including the state’s coffers.

Gov. Tom Corbett Wednesday signed legislation that eases reporting requirements by private clubs — such as Elks and Moose Lodges, VFWs, American Legion Halls and fire departments — but now permits taverns to operate small games of chance including raffles and pull-tabs.

With a unanimous vote, lawmakers in Harrisburg have taken the unusual step of lowering the state’s ability to borrow money.  The House and Senate approved a bill this week that reduces Pennsylvania’s debt ceiling from $4.05 billion to $3.45 billion. 

“Under Governor Rendell the debt limit was increased five times and we felt we needed to reduce our debt service payments and reduce our overall debt,” said House Majority Leader Mike Turzai (R-Allegheny). 

The leader of the state House Republicans plans to seek a floor vote on a transportation funding proposal passed by the Senate last May.

Majority Leader Mike Turzai doesn't support the $2.5 billion proposal, but he notes that since Democrats are clamoring for it and the governor has noted his support for it, the measure should be brought to a vote.

Just a day after the House Republican leader introduced another attempt to privatize liquor stores in Pennsylvania, a Pittsburgh area lawmaker has unveiled legislation to modernize, but not eliminate, the state store system in the commonwealth.

"If we want to preserve and protect a great system that needs to improve, we really should be focusing in on various modernization efforts," said State Senator Jim Ferlo (D-Allegheny).

Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett’s plan to privatize the state’s liquor stores is taking shape in the form of legislation.  A plan was introduced in Harrisburg Tuesday that if nothing else will begin another round of debate.