HARRISBURG - In an historic move, the Pennsylvania House of Representative took a monumental step on Thursday by advancing legislation to break up the state's liquor store system in the Commonwealth, said Rep. Tina Pickett (R-Bradford/Sullivan/Susquehanna), who voted for the proposal.

"For more than 80 years, Pennsylvania has held to the firm belief that government should not only regulate alcohol but should sell it, too," said Pickett. "In recent years, the same state agency charged with tightly regulating the industry has also spent millions marketing products, including its own in-house brands of out-of-state wine and spirits. This is a direct conflict of interest, especially when Pennsylvania wines, like the ones produced along the Northern Tier, have a difficult time getting on local shelves. It's time to break up the monopoly."

House Bill 790, which passed the House on Thursday, marked the first time in state history that legislation passed through either chamber of the state General Assembly that calls for wine and spirits to be sold in locations other than state-owned stores.

Under the measure, beer distributors would have the first opportunity for licenses to sell wine and spirits, making them the only retail establishments in the state to be able to sell all three types of products. Beer distributors would also be able to sell smaller quantities of beer, including growlers, six-packs and 12-pack containers. Distributors not wishing to sell the additional products would benefit from an overall increase in value of their licenses.

In addition, only grocery stores with restaurant licenses would be able to sell beer, although most grocery stores that purchase the appropriate license would be able to sell wine. Spirits would only be sold through private wine and spirits stores.

The legislation also retains tight regulatory control to prevent alcohol from getting into the hands of minors; strengthens law enforcement; promotes alcohol education efforts; and respects current employees of the system. Alcohol could only be sold on Sundays in outlets that purchase Sunday licenses.

"I appreciate the concerns of many of my constituents who believe that greater access to alcohol will lead to greater consumption, and we took those concerns very seriously when developing this proposal," Pickett said. "However, 48 states have privately run systems or a hybrid approach and they have consistently reported fewer instances of driving under the influence, underage drinking and alcohol diseases than what we currently experience in our own tightly controlled state."

Pickett noted that the legislation includes provisions so that rural areas have the same, if not greater, access to wine and spirits.

"Pennsylvanians wholeheartedly agree that selling alcohol is not a core function of government," Pickett said, pointing to numerous public opinion polls as evidence. "However, we must make sure that we open up the system with fairness, and I believe this legislation is a good compromise on reaching that goal."

The legislation now moves to the state Senate for its consideration.

More information, including details about license costs and availability, is available online at www.PAHouseGOP.com.

Submitted article.