HARRISBURG - Put down the corkscrews, wine lovers.
A day after the Pennsylvania Senate approved historic legislation to let consumers buy wine in some supermarkets and restaurants, the leader of the House dashed hope of its winning the necessary support in that chamber.
"It would not come close to passing the House," Speaker Mike Turzai (R., Allegheny) said Friday. "The bill needs improvement."
Turzai wouldn't spell out exactly what that improvement entailed, except to say the bill lacks any "meaningful divestiture" of the state liquor system. He has been an advocate of more expansive steps toward privatization and away from the State Store system.
Turzai spoke a day after the GOP-led Senate approved a series of budget bills that won bipartisan support and fit under a framework agreement its leaders struck with Gov. Wolf. A centerpiece of the deal is plans to add $350 million in new funding for schools, but still unresolved is which taxes will be used to generate that money and how to distribute it.
The liquor bill, which passed, 29-21, in the Senate, would enable licensed supermarkets, restaurants, and bars to sell as many as four bottles of wine to customers. It also called for establishing a committee to explore leasing the wholesale liquor operations currently managed by the state.
After passing its own smaller budget proposal - and seeing the Senate effectively reject it - the Republican-led House agreed to review the Senate plan.
But Turzai said Friday that plans to call legislators to Harrisburg on Saturday had been scrapped - in part to give lawmakers enough time to familiarize themselves with the hundreds of pages of documents in the budget bills. House leaders will continue their discussions and reconvene the chamber Sunday evening, with hope of inching closer to an agreement that could end the five-month budget stalemate.