Sunday, February 7, 2016

Battling Booze and Lottery Changes

The forces of change in a state not known for same are drawing attention from on two fronts: booze and lottery.

Battling Booze and Lottery Changes

Drunk walking is a less publicized danger of New Year´s celebrations.
Drunk walking is a less publicized danger of New Year's celebrations. AP

Change does not come easy to Pennsylvania, a place known for its high percentage of native-born citizens, older residents and public policy that tends to remain the same.

So it comes as no suprise that efforts to change to the way booze is sold and the way the popular, successful state lottery is run both are up against strong opposition.

Nevermind Gov. Corbett's assertion that getting the state out of the booze biz is not only the right thing to do but also can pump $1 billion (over four years) into public schools.

Nevermind his claim that contracting management of the lottery to a British firm will improve the take and thereby bring greater benefits to senior citizens.

It's going to be a heavy lift, including lots of litigation, to get either change accomplished.

The Pittsburgh Tribune Review, for example, reports beer distributors aren't happy with a proposal that would allow them to also sell wine -- if they pay a one-time license fee of $150,000.

Their opposition is based on the fact their competitors, big stores such as Target and Costco, could also seel beer and wine for an annual fee of $35,000.

The head of the Malt Beverage Distribution Association of Pennsylvania, Mark Tanczos, told the newspaper, "This plan removes restrictions on us, but does so in a way that our 1,200 family-owned businesses would be completely destroyed by these large, out-of-state corporations."

So no doubt there's a fight to follow.

Meanwhile, AFSCME, the union representing state lottery workers, has amended it's legal action seeking a permanent injuction against turning lottery management over to the Brits.

The Harrisburg Patriot-News reports AFSCME lawyers found a 1982 advisory opinion from then-Atty. Gen. LeRoy Zimmerman suggesting a change in lottery management can't be done by a governor's say so but needs to go through the state's rule-making process.

You can read the story and Zimmerman's opinion here.

Neither of these new fronts suggest changes won't happen. But this IS Pennsylvania, a place where change doens't come often, and never without a battle and lots of litigation.

Daily News Political Columnist
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About this blog
John Baer has been covering politics and government for the Daily News since 1987. The National Journal in 2002 called Baer one of the country's top 10 political journalists outside Washington, saying Baer has, "the ability to take the skin off a politician without making it hurt too much." E-mail John at

John is the author of the book "On The Front Lines of Pennsylvania Politics: Twenty-Five Years of Keystone Reporting" (The History Press, 2012). Reach John at

John Baer Daily News Political Columnist
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