Mcil­hin­ney dis­putes al­le­ga­tions that con­tri­bu­tions In­flu­enced HIM In pro­posed re­tail liquor pri­va­ti­za­tion

The Advance of Bucks County - - FRONT PAGE - By Pe­tra Ch­es­ner Sch­lat­ter

HAR­RIS­BURG – The liquor pri­va­ti­za­tion is­sue came to a head just be­fore the House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives re­cessed for the sum­mer.

And the is­sue con­tin­ues to be very po­lit­i­cal.

Sen. Chuck McIl­hin­ney (RBucks and Mont­gomery) is dis­put­ing claims that ap­peared in a pub­lished re­port that he was in­flu­enced by cam­paign con­tri­bu­tions re­gard­ing liquor pri­va­ti­za­tion.

The pub­lished re­port al­leged that state cam­paign records show that McIl­hin­ney’s cam­paign con­tri­bu­tions for the month of April in­cluded $50h from in­di­vid­u­als, unions and beer dis­trib­u­tors, who are in­volved in the liquor busi­ness.

In a state­ment, McIl­hin­ney, chair­man of the Se­nate Law and Jus­tice Com­mit­tee, re­acted to the al­le­ga­tion and re­sponded to com­ments made by Rob Ciervo, a mem­ber of the New­town Town­ship Board of Su­per­vi­sors, who con­firmed he is con­sid­er­ing a bid for McIl­hin­ney’s seat in the next Pri­mary.

McIl­hin­ney said leg­is­la­tion that he has pro­posed would “pri­va­tize the re­tail sale of liquor and wine, im­prove con­ve­nience for con­sumers and pro­tect small busi­nesses.”

The Se­nate com­mit­tee voted pri­va­ti­za­tion leg­is­la­tion out of com­mit­tee for a full vote to be con­sid­ered later by the state Se­nate. It is not clear if the mat­ter will be con­sid­ered in the fall.

Ciervo, who pre­vi­ously sought a seat in the state House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives, said in a guest opin­ion that “…Har­ris­burg politi­cians like McIl­hin­ney write the rules to re­ward their friends while hav­ing tax­pay­ers foot the bill.”

He said that McIl­hin­ney’s bill is “a wind­fall for ex­ist­ing beer dis­trib­u­tors, among whom McIl­hin­ney counts friends, sup­port­ers and al­lies. It also does not add any new li­censes for those seek­ing to sell beer by the case.”

McIl­hin­ney told Buck­sLo­, “Th­ese are noth­ing more than base­less po­lit­i­cal at­tacks made by a des­per­ate man,” McIl­hin­ney said. “The facts show that my cam­paign has re­ceived do­na­tions from those on both sides of the liquor pri­va­ti­za­tion de­bate as well as count­less other in­di­vid­u­als who have no in­ter­est in this is­sue. To cherry pick cer­tain ex­am­ples with­out look­ing at the to­tal pic­ture is a cheap stunt de­signed only to bol­ster the po­lit­i­cal for­tunes of those who wish to run against me.”

McIl­hin­ney said the process he em­ployed in the Se­nate “to craft this leg­is­la­tion re­jected the spe- cial in­ter­ests who play po­lit­i­cal games and aren’t ac­count­able to tax­pay­ers or vot­ers. In­stead, my com­mit­tee heard from real stake­hold­ers who un­der­stand how to pri­va­tize the state liquor sys­tem to pro­tect tax­pay­ers, help con­sumers, and lift up Penn­syl­va­nia’s small winer­ies, brew­ers, dis­tillers and mom-and-pop dis­trib­u­tors and small busi­nesses.”

He said that none of the spe­cial in­ter­ests and “hy­per-par­ti­sans” is 100-per­cent pleased with his pro­posed leg­is­la­tion.

McIl­hin­ney said that his leg­is­la­tion is bet­ter than House Bill T90, which was passed in March.

Gov. Tom Cor­bett has en­dorsed HB T90, which would phase out the state Liquor Con­trol Board stores. At least 1,200 li­censes would be cre­ated to sell wine and spir­its.

Ciervo fa­vors HB T90. He said McIl­hin­ney’s plan does not make HBT90 bet­ter, but is an en­tirely new bill.

“Any pri­va­ti­za­tion bill must do three core things,” he said:

* “Get the state com­pletely out of the re­tail and whole­sale side of wine and spir­its and sell li­censes to the free mar­ket to re­place the ex­ist­ing state sys­tem;

* “Al­low all bars and restau­rants the abil­ity to buy wine, spir­its and sell li­censes to the free mar­ket to re­place the ex­ist­ing state sys­tem; and

* “Al­low Penn­syl­va­nia res­i­dents the freedom to shop across the state lines and even or­der on­line to have their beer, wine and spir­its shipped to their home. This is cur­rently a crime!”

McIl­hin­ney’s plan would al­low tav­erns and restau­rants, pri­vate­ly­owned beer dis­trib­u­tors, some supermarkets, ho­tels and cafes to sell dif­fer­ent quan­ti­ties and types of al­co­hol than are cur­rently al­lowed.

The Liquor Con­trol Board, un­der McIl­hin­ney’s leg­is­la­tion, would de­ter­mine when un­prof­itable state stores would be closed.

McIl­hin­ney’s plan would mean the state would re­tain own­er­ship of the whole­sale liquor dis­tri­bu­tion sys­tem. HB T90 spec­i­fies that the state would keep the whole­sale op­er­a­tion for two years while McIl­hin­ney’s plan does not spec­ify when the sys­tem could be sold.

His leg­is­la­tion would limit the abil­ity of large retailers and na­tion­wide whole­salers in the liquor busi­ness.

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