Mcilhinney disputes allegations that contributions Influenced HIM In proposed retail liquor privatization
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 BucksLocalNews.com, “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.