Governor Tom Corbett is likely to find out in a few weeks if there are enough votes in the state House of Representatives to approve his plan to privatize state-owned liquor stores. State Representative Mike Turzai, R-Allegheny, the House majority leader, said he plans to bring to the floor by the end of March Corbett’s proposal to sell the state stores.

Turzai’s announcement prompted the House Democratic leader, state Representative Frank Dermody, D-Allegheny, to say that public hearings on the plan should be held before a floor vote is taken.

Corbett’s privatization plan would abolish the state stores by selling to private entities licenses to sell wine and spirits. It would also allow beer distributors to buy those licenses. Finally, the plan would allow supermarkets and convenience stores to sell beer. Corbett announced the plan in January.

In the last session of the General Assembly, Turzai tried repeatedly to muster the votes to pass a privatization measure, but state House sources said he always came up a few votes short.

Some who back privatization criticized Corbett’s lack of vocal public support for such a plan in the last session. But Corbett’s active support this time could be the difference in getting privatization, or a portion of it, over the top.

“Polls show that most people favor getting the state out of the liquor business,” one political observer said. “The governor needs a victory. He’s going to work hard for this one.”

— John L. Kennedy, for the Law Weekly