Liquor talks on tap for Pennsylvania Legislature

By Andrew Staub | PA Independent

State lawmakers returned to Harrisburg Monday after a two-week hiatus. They’ve got just two session weeks before the budget scramble begins in June, but there’s plenty of legislation action to come before then.

Here’s a quick look at three items of interest this week:

Liquor talks continue

The Harrisburg Patriot-News reported last week that the state Senate could consider legislation that would allow the sale of limited amounts of beer and wine in grocery and convenience stores.

Sen. Jake Corman, R-Centre, expects “serious discussions” about liberalizing the markets for wine and beer, he said.

TALKS ON TAP: Pennsylvania lawmakers are expected to discuss the future of alcohol sales while they’re in session this week.

“I think they’re looking at a lot of ways to be more consumer friendly, but we’ll see,” he said. “We’re going to be talking about it significantly.”

Erik Arneson, a spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi, R-Chester, said Friday “there’s no proposal that’s circulating or anything like that,” but indicated there will be talks about the future of alcohol sales in Pennsylvania. Caucus talks are expected to occur Monday or Tuesday, he said.

“Then we’ll know more what the caucus’s appetite is on making changes to the liquor system,” he said.

That Patriot-News report made it sound as if there’s already a strong desire to make it happen, at least in the House.

House Majority Whip Rep. Stan Saylor, R-York, had this to say to the newspaper. “Before we get too far through May, I think we’ll pass something through to the governor’s desk for liquor.”

Property tax reform to get a closer look

The long-standing albatross of property reform will go under the legislative microscope again this week.

The state Senate Finance Committee will hold a public hearing Wednesday about an amendment to Senate Bill 76, which would eliminate property taxes and replace them by increasing the state’s personal income tax and raising and expanding the sales tax.

While the legislation has strong grassroots support, more than 40 organizations — including the Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center and the Pennsylvania Chamber of Business and Industry — have panned the bill and said it could leave schools with a volatile funding mechanism.

That sort of issue, the Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center said, won’t change even with an amendment that makes technical changes.

Bill sponsors and supporters plan to discuss the legislation during a briefing scheduled for Monday afternoon.

Gift ban legislation to be discussed

The state Senate has already passed legislation that would ban lawmakers from accepting cash gifts from lobbyists or individuals looking to influence government, but that was described as just the start of ethics reforms.

Now, there are more talks scheduled after a sting operation in Philadelphia caught a handful of lawmakers accepting money.

The chamber’s State Government Committee will discuss gift ban legislation during a meeting Monday morning, potentially shaping the framework for a more comprehensive way of addressing gift giving.

Andrew Staub is a reporter for PA Independent and can be reached at Andrew@PAIndependent.com. Follow @PAIndependent on Twitter for more.

Rob Port is the editor of SayAnythingBlog.com, a columnist for the Forum News Service, and host of the Plain Talk Podcast which you can subscribe to by clicking here.

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