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Last updated: June 26. 2014 5:57PM - 1639 Views

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Pennsylvania’s liquor laws are more than a little odd.


“The rules are ridiculous,” said JoAnn Dalton, owner of American Vintage Bed and Breakfast in Stewartstown.


Despite decades-long efforts by some lawmakers to relinquish state control, Pennsylvania continues its heavy-handed – and sometimes downright silly – management of alcohol sales.


Dalton was referring to a law that prohibits bed and breakfasts from giving guests a complimentary bottle of wine during their stays, as B&Bs do in other states.


It’s particularly annoying because she can look out American Vintage’s windows and see Naylor Wine Cellars next door. “My guests can go over there and bring me a complimentary bottle, but I can’t give them one,” Dalton said.


Relief could be on the way for an integral part of the state’s tourism industry: A bill, which cleared the House 200-1, would allow bed-and-breakfast owners to give one bottle of wine produced by a licensed, limited Pennsylvania winery.


State Rep. Scott Petri, R-Bucks County, deserves credit for introducing House Bill 244.


But it’s only a drop in the bottle – and we’re not optimistic about its chances in the state Senate. That is, after all, where liquor sale privatization bills go to die, despite widespread public support.


The full House last year, for the first time, passed a bill ending the state’s strict control of liquor sales. It would have phased out Pennsylvania’s 600 state-operated liquor stores and raised millions in revenue by selling licenses to private businesses. Unfortunately, it was dead on arrival in the Senate, where majority Republicans complained it didn’t go far enough but couldn’t gather enough support for their own more ambitious version.


Last year, the effort was hampered by Gov. Tom Corbett tying liquor privatization to transportation funding and pension reform. In the end, none of the Republican governor’s top priorities made it into the 2012-13 budget.


The Legislature did manage to pass a transportation funding bill before the end of the year, and now liquor privatization and pension reform are again on the table as Pennsylvania faces a $1 billion-plus deficit for 2014-15.


Corbett has said he’s willing to hold out for his priorities this year, even if it means blowing the June 30 budget deadline.


Enough with the drama. If the governor is willing to negotiate – say, on creating a severance tax on Marcellus Shale drillers – we say the Legislature should give him liquor store privatization.


The state has no business being in the booze business, a solid majority of Pennsylvanians favor reform, and it’s time to get it done.


The York Dispatch


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