Thursday, January 29, 2015

Another Whiff of the Bottle

Another month, another promise of better booze pricing and availability; is the umpteenth time the charm?

Another Whiff of the Bottle

If you're catching a whiff of a robust red or the smokey scent of a well-priced scotch, don't be alarmed.

Your senses are not playing tricks on you. It's just yet another promise from Harrisburg that more and lower-cost booze is just around the corner.

Yep, the never-say-die proponents of ending Pennsylvania's antique, nanny-state control of hootch are again pledging to do just that because, as they say, hope springs eternal; and the way things are going these days we all could use a drink.

House Republican Leader Mike Turzai on Tuesday said he'll bring Gov. Corbett's liquor privatization plan up for a vote before the end of the month.

The plan would, as the Inky reports Wednesday (for, I don't know, maybe the 375th time), auction off State Stores, use an estimated $1 billion profit to help public schools and allow anyone with money and contacts to sell liquor, beer and wine.

All that stands in the way of this revolution is the usual cabal of unions, the religious right, rural lawmakers worried about access for their constituents and a host of interests worried that making more booze available means more drunk drivers and alcoholism.

But, hey, what's a little social disruption compared to cheaper chardonnay and, more importantly, the chance for the politically-connected to make huge profits from newly-minted liquor licenses?

Of course, there's another plan. Philly GOP Rep. John Taylor, who happens to chair the House committee that would move any booze-related legislation, wants to amend Corbett's plan. Taylor would let State Stores stay open as long as the LCB likes, issue 1,200 licenses to sell spirits and wine (with beer distributors getting first options) and allow grocery stores to sell beer and wine (if they can pony up the price of a license, which I figure will be roughly the same as a four-year Ivy League education).

So settle in, uncork a nice smooth pinot noir, set your TV to the Pennsylvania Cable Network for those House votes this month and watch your elected officials work to improve your life by attacking what is clearly the most pressing problem facing the city, the state and every citizen.

John Baer Daily News Political Columnist
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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