Liquor privatization has problems in the Senate. Problems that were expressed in committee Monday in relation to Mad Dog 20/20. Which apparently is not the gold standard of beverage in the Pennsylvania Senate.
With Democrats saying their members, as in the House, are squarely against private liquor, Republicans are left needing 26 of their 27 members to get a bill passed.
They got their "no" vote, at least on the proposal by Law & Justice Chairman Chuck McIlhinney, in committee from Sen. Don White, R-Indiana, who said privatization would limit access and convenience in his rural district.
Senate President Pro Tem Joe Scarnati said he'd vote "yes" so the bill could reach the Senate floor. But he made it clear that he doesn't think closing the state liquor stores would be good for the people living in his district, which is sparsely populated enough that it includes Cameron, Elk, Jefferson, McKean, Potter and part of Clearfield counties.
Because at the end of the day, he suggested, they might be left with a pretty long trek and still maybe not much for the discerning drinker.
"We have a product, which we said we would have a product," Scarnati said of the bill. "But clearly, as this process moves on, I just don't want to have Mad Dog 20/20 in the 25th District and have to drive 45 minutes to get it."
At the state liquor stores now, you can pick up 750 mL of MD 20/20 -- in Banana Red and Electric Melon flavors, among others -- for $4.99. (Or, to be economical, 1.5 L of MD 20/20 Orange Jubilee for $8.99.)
But too far to go for Mad Dog is only one side of the equation.
"I'm actually worried about too much Mad Dog 20/20," said Sen. Anthony Williams, the Philadelphia Democrat, who said he worries about a proliferation of liquor stores in urban areas.
Even McIlhinney, who crafted the Senate amendment, said rural areas will have few private businesses serving them.
"As he said, if you have to drive 45 minutes to get a bottle of wine, and the only thing you can get at the corner tavern is a Mad Dog 20/20, his constituents aren't going to be happy," McIlhinney said. "No offense to Mad Dog 20/20."