Wednesday was a busy day for beverages, with Pennsylvania dramatically loosening alcohol sales and Philadelphia looking to pass a soda tax.
The Pennsylvania House of Representatives voted with an overwhelming majority on Tuesday for a bill that will make it easier to buy and sell beer, wine and liquor, according to NBC 10. Governor Tom Wolf signed it into law less than a day later on Wednesday, allowing grocery stores and other outlets to sell takeout wine and formalizing beer sales in convenience stores that have already begun as a result of lawsuits. Pennsylvania consumers can also have wine shipped directly to their homes by private wine wholesalers, and casinos can sell liquor 24 hours a day (in contrast to 19 hours before the law passed). State liquor stores will have greater flexibility in their hours and pricing.
Not everyone was in favor of the more lenient regulations. The head of the union that represents state liquor store clerks was vocally against the bill when a version of it passed in the Pennsylvania Senate in December.
“We’re opposed to it and think it’s crazy that we would do this,” Wendell Young IV, president of United Food and Commercial Workers Local 1776, told NBC 10.
Representatives, on the other hand, felt they were responding to public opinion.
Rep. Lee James (R-Venago) said that the new legislation is “exactly what my constituents would like to see take place.”
House Minority Leader Frank Dermody (D-Allegheny) told Philly.com that the law “dramatically improves consumer convenience, and it preserves the jobs.”
Closer to home, a City Council committee voted on Wednesday to approve a new tax on sugary drinks and diet sodas. The funds that the tax raise will go to expand pre-K, fund community schools and overhaul parks, libraries and recreation centers, Philly.com reported.
If legislators approve the tax on Thursday for it to officially become a law, a tax rate of 1.5 cents per ounce will be levied on soda. The original proposition was 3 cents per ounce, but the new number was established with the caveat that diet soda would be included. The projected revenue of the tax is $91 million a year.
As with the loosened alcohol restrictions, the new tax hasn’t been welcomed by all. The soda industry spent nearly $3 million to kill the tax, Philly.com reported. Former Mayor of Philadelphia Michael Nutter tried twice to push a soda tax through to law and was defeated both times.
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