- The Pennsylvania Senate advanced legislation yesterday supported by Gov. Wolf to break state government control over wine sales, but its fate was uncertain in the House, where majority Republicans have demanded that a stronger privatization measure be a companion to a bipartisan budget deal.
The 29-21 vote came as the Senate scrambled to wrap up most of its budget-related legislation, although any agreement that could end the 5-month-old budget stalemate was in shambles after House Republicans revolted and passed a significantly smaller spending plan.
The Senate's vote was largely party line: two Democrats, including Minority Leader Jay Costa, D-Allegheny, joined Republicans in supporting the measure, while four Republicans joined Democrats in opposing it.
It passed with little floor debate other than a protest by Sen. Mike Folmer, R-Lebanon, who said the state would be sending the wrong message by expanding sales of alcoholic beverages while the House holds up Folmer's legislation to legalize medical marijuana for the sick.
Under the bill, about 14,000 holders of takeout-beer licenses - including restaurants, bars, hotels, supermarkets and delis - would be able to sell up to four bottles of wine to a customer. Beer distributorships were not included in the bill, and selling hard liquor would remain under the exclusive jurisdiction of the approximately 600 state-owned stores.
Cutting out perks for beer distributorships or private licenses for hard liquor could be a sticking point with House Republicans.
House Majority Leader Dave Reed, R-Indiana, said Thursday that House GOP leadership would review the bill to determine whether to make changes.