Treating adults like, well, adults
Recently the state Senate passed - unanimously - a bill that would allow UPS and FedEx drivers to step out of their trucks and into the 21st century by delivering wine directly to consumers' homes.
Gone would be the convoluted system under which consumers who order wine from in-state wineries can have it shipped to their homes, but those who order wine from out-of-state wineries must ship it to a state-owned Wine & Spirits Shoppe and pick it up there.
Under the Senate-passed bill, adults would be able to buy up to 24 bottles of wine a month from domestic out-of-state wineries, which would be required by the law to collect and remit Pennsylvania's applicable taxes. An adult would have to receive and sign for the shipment.
Imagine - the state wine and liquor monopoly treating Pennsylvania adults like ... well, adults. What will they think of next?
Actually, something even better.
After the 48-0 vote, the Senate sent the home-delivery bill to the House, where it will not move as a separate piece of legislation. Rather, House Majority Leader Mike Turzai said it will become part of a broader effort to privatize the entire state booze monopoly and modernize the tax structure for alcoholic beverage sales.
That is the correct course. Under a private system, home delivery would be one aspect of a competitive, pro-consumer marketplace. Many private retailers would have home-delivery options of their own to compete for that segment of the business.
Under the Turzai proposal, the state government would be assigned its appropriate role in commerce relative to alcoholic beverages. Rather than the wholesaler, retailer, regulator and enforcer, the state Liquor Control Board would be responsible for licensing private-sector wholesalers and retailers, collecting tax revenue and enforcing the relevant laws.
The Senate bill is part of a trend that, in itself, validates the privatization effort. The PLCB itself and its supporters know the system has run its course. Over the last several years, the agency - to its credit - has attempted to become more consumer-friendly. But each initiative only demonstrates the inadequacy of the public system.
Rather than trying to fix the system piecemeal, lawmakers should go all the way and turn over wholesale and retail sales to the private sector.