(A brief discussion twixt Baer & Baer's editor, a.k.a. BE)
BE: Hey, JB, did Corbett run over Scarnati's dog?
JB: An excellent question, boss. You're talking about the fact Republican Senate President Joe Scarnati, a key player in moving any legislation, yesterday seemed to trash the idea of selling off the state stores anytime soon, a plan backed by House Republican leaders and Republican Gov. Corbett.
BE: Indeed, were YOU not surprised?
JB: Well, I attended a little informal sit-down Scarnati had with the press in his Capitol office conference room and it WAS interesting.
BE: How'd we get to his rebellion against the Guv on the state store issue?
JB; He was asked about his priorities for the fall and he listed redistricting, a comprehensive package on shale, especially a local impact fee, and transportation funding issues. When a reporter asked about vouchers, noting, after all, the voucher bill IS Senate Bill 1, he admitted he forgot vouchers and added "it is a priority."
BE: And that led to a question about state stores?
JB: Yes, especially since fellow-conservative House Majority Leader Mike Turzai, sponsor of the privatization bill, says that's his number one issue for the fall.
BE: Yet Scarnati dumped on the issue.
JB: He did. He said the Senate faces "must do" issues with a timeline such as redistricting and highway/bridge funding. On the state store issue, he said, "I'm not sure it meets that litmus test."
BE: Why the big difference between the House & Senate leaders, especially when both are Republicans?
JB: Scarnati represents rural areas and the shale impact fee is his top concern. Also, his familiy was in the restaurant biz for generations. He was in it for 20 years and says the state liquor system has made "great changes" from operating like "Stalag 13" to much better pricing and selection today. He also says he's concerned that selling the stores won't work well in rural communities: "There isn't anybody going to be bidding on the liquor store in Brockway."
JB: A rural community of 2,000 in Jefferson County, his district, 83 miles northeast of Pittsburgh.
BE: So it's a personal thing?
JB: Partly, but I'm told he doesn't hate the idea of privatization.
BE: But this could certainly slow down the train, yes?
JB: It could. A cynic (not you or I, of course) might suggest he's trolling for contributions from the state store union or offering the opening salvo in negotiations to trade his support for state store privatization for Corbett's support for a shale impact fee.
BE: Ah, politics.
JB: Makes you want to Grrrr, huh?
BE: I'll leave that to you.
JB: OK. Grrr.