HARRISBURG - Pennsylvanians may soon be able to buy their Thanksgiving turkey and a bottle of Chardonnay at the same store.
In an unexpected vote Tuesday, the House approved a bill to let restaurants, hotels, and hundreds of grocery and convenience stores sell up to four bottles of wine to go.
The measure cleared the Senate late last year, but languished untouched for six months. It hadn't even been included on the schedule of planned votes this week.
Its passage, by a 157-31 vote, sends the bill to Gov. Wolf, giving him a high-stakes decision as he and the Republican-led legislature march toward a July 1 budget deadline.
The push by GOP leaders in the House to disband the state's role in wine and liquor sales became entangled in last year's historic budget impasse. Wolf had at one point agreed to sign the Senate bill, but only as part of a larger deal, which eventually collapsed.
The governor would not say Tuesday if he planned to sign the measure into law. Instead, his office released a statement in which Wolf described the bill as "historic liquor modernization legislation that provides greater customer convenience to the people of Pennsylvania," but said he needs to review it to ensure it met his goals of enhancing customer service and helping to balance the budget.
His spokesman declined to elaborate.
Advocates on both sides of the issue are watching.
The Pennsylvania Restaurant and Lodging Association urged the governor to sign the bill, while the Distilled Spirits Council warned that moving only wine into grocery stores would hurt distillers.
House Republicans estimated the expanded licensing and sales would generate $149 million for the state in the coming fiscal year.
More than 300 Pennsylvania grocery and convenience stores are licensed to sell beer, according to the Liquor Control Board, and would be able to purchase permits allowing them to sell wine.
If enacted, consumers might see wine in supermarkets as soon as November, House Republican spokesman Steve Miskin said.
House Speaker Mike Turzai (R., Allegheny), who has championed ending the state business of selling alcohol, said that while Republican members want to push for changes to the state's wholesale system for wine and liquor sales, such demands would not be part of negotiations over the budget for the next fiscal year.
"Part of the reason that we ran it this week was to make it clear that this is a separate bill that needed to be evaluated on its own merits," Turzai said. "We think that the budget moves together in a very positive fashion when it's about the budget, and it's about expenditures and revenues."
Legislative Democrats have resisted efforts to end the State Store system, though they have supported efforts to improve service at the stores.
House Democrats on Tuesday gave much more support to the bill - more than half of them voted in favor - than their Senate colleagues had in December.
House Minority Leader Frank Dermody (D., Allegheny) said the legislation would preserve the jobs of thousands of workers in the State Stores. And he said it might not hurt efforts to deliver the next state budget.
"We're trying to make sure we get a budget passed, and I think that this could be part of that plan," he said.