Senate Works On Liquor Compromise

Posted: June 17, 1987

HARRISBURG — With two weeks to go until a court-ordered deadline, the Senate postponed public debate yesterday on Gov. Casey's liquor legislation in favor of working out agreements on the issue in closed-door meetings.

Republican and Democratic leaders said last night that they were close to coming up with a compromise that would avoid sending the issue to a House- Senate conference committee.

"We're pretty close," said Sen. Vincent J. Fumo (D., Phila.). "The leadership of both sides have agreed to amendments. I don't think you're going to see much change from the current bill."

The Senate had intended to begin debate yesterday on the measure. But as dozens of amendments were submitted, the Democrats recessed to closed-door caucus sessions to review each one.

One sticky point worked out, Fumo said, was Casey's plan to change the name of the Liquor Control Board to the Alcoholic Beverages Commission.

"We've given that up. I think you're going to see it called the LCB," Fumo said.

Senate Majority Leader John Stauffer (R., Chester-Montgomery) said the name change was an important issue.

"If it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, don't tell me it's a horse," he said. "We're not going to have the claims being made of these great reforms when it's the same system."

Fumo and Stauffer said the final bill probably would contain provisions allowing the use of credit cards in State Stores and establishing specialty wine shops operated by the LCB.

The controversial issue of whether beer distributors should be permitted to advertise by price will be worked out on the Senate floor, the legislators said.

Although numerous amendments are expected to be offered to make the liquor system privately operated, including expanding the sale of wine coolers to beer distributors, Fumo said they would have little chance of passing.

"I think that everyone agrees we're not going to address the issue of wine coolers in this bill," he said.

Senate leaders hope to get through the amendments today and send the bill to the Appropriations Committee for a fiscal note. A vote on final passage could occur Monday or Tuesday. If approved, the bill would go back to the House for agreement on the amendments.

Fumo said House Majority Leader James J. Manderino (D., Westmoreland) had been kept abreast of the Senate progress. Democratic leaders also met with the governor yesterday to discuss the issue.

Although Senate leaders said they believed the House would concur with the changes, if the House did not agree, a conference committee would need to be appointed to work out a compromise.

The General Assembly and governor have until June 30 to resolve the issue. The administration has said no contingency plans have been prepared in the event the deadline is not met.

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