Dems' Wine Cooler Proposal Is Fruitless; Guv Just Says No

Posted: November 21, 1986

HARRISBURG — An alternative to divestiture of the state Liquor Control Board that would

allow beer distributors to sell wine coolers - but not other wine products - has been rejected by Gov. Thornburgh.

Thornburgh's action increases the possibility that he will carry out his threat to dismantle the state's liquor monopoly beginning Jan. 1.

The alternative to complete divestiture was floated yesterday by Senate Democrats, and was endorsed earlier this week by Gov.-elect Robert P. Casey, according to Sen. Mark Singel, D-Cambria. Singel is the lieutenant governor- elect and has served as Casey's point man in the Legislature since the Nov. 4 election.

Singel said the proposal to allow the popular wine coolers to be sold outside of state-owned liquor stores represented a major step by Democrats toward a compromise with Thornburgh and Republicans over the LCB situation.

Singel said the Democratic compromise contained all of the other elements Thornburgh has insisted be in such a bill, including a proposal to take liquor law enforcement responsibilities from the LCB and give them to another agency, such as the Pennsylvania State Police or the attorney general's office.

"The door is still open to compromise," Singel said.

Thornburgh has insisted that any compromise measure must allow for private sales of wine in the state.

"It's absolutely unacceptable," Thornburgh press secretary David Runkel said of the Democratic plan. "Just doing something for the wine-cooler people is not acceptable to the governor."

Under state law, the 53-year-old LCB will automatically go out of business at midnight Dec. 31 unless both houses of the Legislature vote to renew it.

Earlier this week, the Democrat-controlled House voted overwhelmingly to retain the LCB, as is, for another 10 years. Republicans in the Senate, taking their cue from Thornburgh, have refused to consider a similar proposal.

Also yesterday, the GOP-controlled Senate Law and Justice Committee approved along party lines a bill that would allow for wine to be sold by private investors along the lines of the state's beer distribution network.

Senate Law and Justice Committee chairman John Shumaker, R-Dauphin, said the bill would be considered by the full Senate on Monday.

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