Murt, Santarsiero oppose liquor privatization bill

State Rep. Tom Murt released the following statement following the House vote on a bill to privatize liquor sales in Pennsylvania:

“While I agree that we must modernize the current system, I opposed House Bill 466 because it would expand the distribution of alcohol throughout the state on such a massive scale, but without increasing funding for measures to improve public safety. Making liquor cheaper and more available will certainly result in more alcohol abuse and alcohol use by the underage population. This is essentially an unfunded mandate on all of our law enforcement professionals across Pennsylvania, which is why the Fraternal Order of Police and Police Chiefs Association opposed the bill.

“I’m also concerned that our Commonwealth is starved for funds, yet we are getting ready to turn over a very profitable operation, and the proposed new system does not require any additional investment in drug and alcohol rehabilitation. It makes no sense. Among my other objections, there were not enough protections in the bill to prevent convicted criminals from going into the liquor business, no prohibition on outlets near halfway houses, day care centers and schools. Nor were there any requirements that licensees be residents of Pennsylvania.”

The bill passed, 114–87. The measure failed in the Senate, but supporters plan to revisit the issue.

Meanwhile, State Rep. Steve Santarsiero voted against it because it lacked the price, selection and convenience improvements that consumers want and fell short on controls to protect minors.

“This issue deserves a full debate beyond just this one proposal,” Santarsiero said. “We need to consider what’s good for the consumers, while protecting minors and at the same time recognizing that we have a system in place that employs thousands of Pennsylvanians. We need a proposal that will pass the Senate and that the governor will sign. H.B. 466 is not that proposal.”