HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — A bill that would allow Pennsylvanians to have domestic wines shipped directly to their homes won the state Senate's unanimous approval Wednesday, but it faces obstacles in the House.
Senators approved the measure 48-0 with little debate, but a spokesman for the House Republican majority said its fate in that chamber would be tied to legislation to privatize liquor and wine sales in the state — a proposal that has been bottlenecked in the House since December.
"There's no question that sales of wine and spirits in Pennsylvania need to be modernized, and the way to do that is through privatization," said the spokesman, Steve Miskin.
The Senate bill would allow adult Pennsylvanians to order — on the Internet or by mail or phone — as many as 18 liters of wine, or 24 bottles, per person per month from wineries in the United States.
Under the bill, consumers would have to verify their age and sign for the shipment. Wineries would have to collect all Pennsylvania taxes prior to shipping, pay a $100 state registration fee and annually report to the board and the Legislature how much wine they shipped.
Sen. Lawrence M. Farnese Jr., a co-sponsor of the bill, said he was disappointed by the approval of a late-surfacing amendment that limited sales to domestic wines and excluded those from overseas.
The amendment shuts out Pennsylvania wine-lovers from "90 percent of the world's wine," said Farnese, D-Philadelphia. "The people of Pennsylvania are really getting less than what they should be getting."
Sen. Jim Ferlo, D-Allegheny, put a more optimistic spin on the measure, calling it a positive step for consumers that also should help bolster anemic state revenue.
Pennsylvanians already can special-order wines through the state-run liquor stores, but they typically must pick up the shipment at a state store.
In November, the liquor board began offering home delivery, but only for customers who picked from a limited number of products and placed their order on the PLCB website. The option also carries a shipping charge of at least $14 per order, said board spokeswoman Stacey Witalec.
Miskin said he did not know how soon the House might resurrect the stalled privatization debate, but that it will not be before lawmakers head home next week for a spring break.