HARRISBURG — Republican State Sen. Chuck McIlhinney of Bucks County, who chaired the powerful committee that oversaw changes to the state’s liquor laws, announced Friday that he will retire when his term ends this year.
McIlhinney, 50, said in a statement that it was “time to move on and allow a new leader to take over.” It was not immediately clear what he will do once he leaves office at the end of November.
“I entered public service to make a difference for my community and the people who live here,” McIlhinney said. “I can look back proudly at my time in office and my accomplishments.”
He could not be reached for comment Friday.
McIlhinney, a onetime Doylestown Borough Council member, has been a state lawmaker for 20 years, first as a member of the House of Representatives and since 2006 as a senator.
In the Senate, he is best known for chairing the Law and Justice Committee, which among other things oversaw issues related to the sale of wine, beer and liquor in the state.
For decades, Pennsylvania’s liquor laws remained virtually unchanged from the end of Prohibition. Making changes to them almost always required navigating political and ideological divisions in the legislature.
But the last five years have ushered in major changes, including allowing wine and beer sales at grocery stores and other private establishments and permitting out-of-state vineyards to ship wine directly to Pennsylvania residents.
In his statement, McIlhinney said he was also proud of work to help strengthen the Open Records law and pass the ban on smoking in restaurants.
“I have never focused on party labels, only on trying to do what is right for the people of Bucks County who I represent and the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania,” McIlhinney said.
McIlhinney and other Bucks County legislators came under scrutiny in 2012 when, as part of the budget process, they pushed for a ban on drilling for natural gas in a little-known rock formation under Bucks and Montgomery Counties. The language was tucked into a budget-related bill at the eleventh hour and approved with little debate, angering lawmakers from other parts of the state where drilling occurred.