Republicans in the House once again want to end the government monopoly on the sale of liquor in Pennsylvania. And this time they want the help of voters to do it.
Natalie Mihalik (R-40-Allegheny/Washington) has introduced a bill calling for a referendum on a constitutional amendment that would privatize the Fine Wine and Good Spirits stores. Gov. Tom Wolf has vetoed past GOP efforts to privatize the system. The new bill would bypass the governor and let voters weigh in on the decision.
“We are one of two states in the entire nation with a government monopoly on the sale of liquor and the only state in the nation to shut down the sale of spirits entirely during the pandemic,” said Mihalek in a press release. “The pandemic exposed many flaws in our government and our liquor system was no different. It is time for this Commonwealth to modernize the sale of liquor once and for all.”
At yesterday’s hearing of the House Liquor Control Committee, those who favored keeping the business in the state’s hands spoke of the economic benefit in the range of $750 million to the Commonwealth. Democrats on the committee warned of the lack of time to understand the ramifications of the legislation and that any changes should be dealt with by legislation, not a constitutional amendment.
The legislature would need to approve the referendum in two sessions before it would appear before the voters as a ballot question. If adopted, the mandate would be effective 18 months after voter approval and thereby avoid a possible veto from Gov. Wolf.