Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Not a Mistake, Not perfect...Good Enough

Last post I asked if we would be calling Senator McIlhinney's privatization proposal "McIlhinney's Mistake." Here's what I thought we'd see in it:
Best guess at that, from things he's been saying: bars and restaurants should be allowed to sell full bottles of wine and spirits to go, the State Stores stay open, the case law stays and the beer in grocery stores situation remains in its ridiculous "cafe needed" state, and the PLCB remains as the state's sole wholesaler...and that's going to be "privatization," McIlhinney's Mistake-style.

Here's how that went when we got a revamped version of his SB100, yesterday:
  • Beer distributors and bar/restaurant/deli/hotel license holders can sell wine and spirits to go (for an $8,000 annual fee ($4K for just wine/just spirits, and $2K for "specialty spirits," single category), and a limit of four bottles per sale unless you're a distributor); there are about 14,000 such licensees, and another 1,000 in escrow (some kept there deliberately by anti-drinking types).
  • The State Stores stay open
  • Distributors can sell sixpacks (as packaged by the manufacturer...killjoys); taverns can sell up to a case
  • Grocery stores still need a deli license -- no new licenses created -- and a cafe area, some minor restrictions on what can be sold at each register area are loosened
  • The PLCB remains as sole wholesaler; study of situation required after 2 years, if divestiture will not have "significant impact on the fiscal stability of the Commonwealth," the Legislature may consider selling the wholesale operations
  • PLCB as wholesaler is required "to buy any specific liquor or alcohol requested by a permit holder"
  • PLCB will ship to "permit holders" by the case for a fee; manufacturer/distributor can drop-ship directly to permit holders 
  • State Stores get "flexible pricing"
  • Licensees get an 18% discount on PLCB prices
  • Elimination of the Johnstown Flood Tax!
  • Direct wine shipment to citizens
  • "Windfall" money goes to senior citizen property tax relief
  • All retail liquor stores (State and private) to have consistent hours: 8 AM to 11 PM.
  • PLCB and permit holders are prohibited from selling private labels (buh-bye, TableLeaf!)
  • Creation of a Wine Industry Promotion Board (nothing about brewers or distillers)
  • Did I mention that the State Stores stay open?
 Well...My major issues, in another bullet point list.
  • The State Stores stay open, and with NO formula in place to close them. That's left to the discretion of the PLCB. Bad idea, verging on very bad idea. Rip off the band-aid.
  • Why stop at sixpacks? Take away all restraints on volumes: distributors and taverns can both sell everything from single bottles to kegs. And why "as packaged by the manufacturer"? Why no mixed six? They'll be pulling the wings off flies, next. If they do keep the stupid "compromise with no one" sixpack minimum, I nominate "as packaged by the manufacturer" as the first thing to go in the amendment process. It's just petty. If the store doesn't want to sell mixed sixes, they can make that a policy. Doesn't have to be a law.
  • Limits on wine and spirits sales for taverns/hotels/delis. If you're going to charge everyone $8,000, everyone should get the same deal.
  • Kick the licenses out of escrow with a "use it or lose it" clause. Any license unsold in escrow for more than two years reverts to the state.Why should they be wasted just because some Mennonite doesn't want me to have a drink?
  • Kill the cafe: this is an advantage for large supermarkets and hurts small grocers. 
  • End the police-enforced monopoly.
  • Privatize wholesale. Period.
Now...what I think we might get? Not much. I think this bill is either going to pass with relatively minor tweaking, or it's going to die. I'm hoping for more complete "package reform," and I'd really like to see an end to the insulting police-enforced monopoly, but I'm not holding my breath.

Actually, my hat's off to the Senator. I'd love to see all my major issues dealt with, and I do think that leaving the PLCB as wholesaler is going to be a disaster, but...he always said the hard part was coming up with something that could pass. I think he may have finessed that. He won't get any Democrat votes -- and bad cess to them, and especially the mule-mouthed Senator Ferlo -- but I think this could get 26 Republicans. I've got my fingers crossed.

And on that note...write your senators! Urge the Republicans to vote for this, and beg the Democrats to abstain. CC the Governor and make sure the Republican Senators you write to know that he needs this bill; CC your local representative to they know how you're pushing your senator. You know the union's doing it. Get off your ass and make it happen; this is the best chance privatization's had in 75 years. Don't let perfect be the enemy of good.

Here's what I wrote to my Senator:

Dear Senator Tomlinson,

Senator McIlhinney's proposal for eventual liquor privatization is out, and I'm sure you have the details. The proposal doesn't close the State Stores, doesn't slash jobs, keeps the wholesale monopoly, covers the revenue, provides for senior citizen tax relief, gives Pennsylvanians at least some of the beer package reform they've been begging for, and gives beer distributors an affordable way to add wine and spirits to their businesses. Most importantly, it ADDS competition, choice, and convenience to wine and spirits retail for Pennsylvanians, without harming family-owned beer distributors.

It seems like a very good compromise, one that the House can approve, and that the Governor can sign for a much-needed legislative victory for the Republicans. I hope I can count on your vote for this proposal in its final form; it is, as I've told you, very much a ballot box issue for me.

Lew Bryson

Feel free to use some or all of it. DO IT!


Lew Bryson said...

Someone just tried to post Wendell W. Young IV's BS-laden press release here. I'm not the Sacramento Bee, you don't get to just slap up a press release. You want to make a statement, use your own words, not those of Wendell W. "President For Life" Young IV. And don't try posting press releases.

I welcome debate, I welcome opposing views. Always have. I don't allow spam, I don't allow abuse, I don't allow press releases. Keep it clean. Well, relatively clean. That's what I do.

Anonymous said...

i agree lew. but i am afraid no bill will be signed into law. its too late before the june 30th deadline. do you think the governor will hold up the budget to get this done?

Lew Bryson said...

The Governor has essentially already said that he will wait on the budget by noting that the first two weeks of July have been cleared on his calendar. So...fingers crossed.

greg said...

man, I'm not sure I support sb100. I never thought I'd see the day where I was less willing to moderate than you, but as someone about to open a limited winery, the existence of the state stores as the only distributor more and more feels like a dealbreaker. This rearranges deck chairs, but ultimately doesn't change things much for me as a consumer or prospective operator.