Liquor Privatization, Déjà vu all over again?

The stories are countless, a new resident to Pennsylvania goes grocery shopping for the first time and is astounded when they can’t find either the beer or wine aisles. Or you are amazed when you go to the Food Lion in North Carolina to stock up for your beach vacation and lo and behold you can buy not only a case of beer but a bottle of wine.

Since the repeal of Prohibition way back in 1933 the Commonwealth has constructed a set of laws and regulations so arcane and unintelligible that you would need to look even further back in history to the rules of court in ancient Byzantium for guidance.

Now I am old enough to remember when I went to the “State Store” and I had to place my order to a clerk who then disappeared into the back and sometimes actually came back with something resembling what I desired.  Now of course we have “Wine and Spirits” shops where I can actually see and touch what I am ordering.  But no beer!

Change comes at a glacial pace.  Governors Thornburg, Ridge and Corbett tried with nothing to show for their efforts.

Under Governor Corbett the latest attempt was made to change the system, and then Majority Leader Mike Turzai actually defied history and passed his bill through the State House.  It died an unseemly death in the State Senate. With the defeat of Corbett it seemed as if the issue was dead, or at least dormant.

But credit, now Speaker Mike Turzai, who has pledged to get Pennsylvania out of the liquor business once and for all.  As part of any negotiation on revenue increases in this year’s budget Turzai has made it a condition that liquor privatization must be passed and signed by Governor Wolf. A new privatization bill by Turzai is waiting to be launched any day now.

How will this play out? Will the Senate finally pass Turzai’s bill? Will Governor Tom Wolf sign it? Stay tuned during the next six months.

by Nello Giorgetti

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If you have questions please contact Michelle Vezzani at MVezzani@cohenlaw.com or the public affairs professional with whom you work.

Will we finally have State and Municipal Pension Reform in 2015?

One of the unfinished items from the Tom Corbett era as Governor of Pennsylvania was an attempt to bring fiscal sanity to the underfunded state employees and teachers’ pension funds.

Because of a variety of reasons—some out of Governor Corbett’s control no action was taken, leaving this financial mess for incoming Governor Tom Wolf to deal with.

And mess it is. Both funds are severely underfunded, because of the 2008 great recession and because, in the teachers’ pension fund, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania decided that the market was going so well that it gave itself and local school boards a pass in putting in their shares in the aforementioned fund.

Now we are billions in unfunded liabilities.

This is without counting local municipal pension fund problems. Pennsylvania suffers from a multiplicity of funds—almost 25 percent of local municipal pension funds are located in our fair state. Unfortunately a vast majority of these funds are deep in the red.

The City of York has announced that they will no longer have a police force or a paid fire department because the yearly payment it has to put into its pensions make these public safety employees a luxury it can no longer afford.

Speaker Elect Mike Turzai did try to deal with state pension reform last year, coming up a few votes short. All indications are that he wants to fix this problem once and for all in the coming New Year.

The State Senate did pass a bi-partisan municipal pension reform bill 5 years ago only to see it die in the then Democratic controlled House.

With a new Governor, with a fiscal pension mess and a revenue shortfall perhaps the impetus for a solution might be at hand.

To paraphrase an old saying, “Never let a good crisis go to waste.”

by Nello Giorgetti

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If you have questions please contact Michelle Vezzani at MVezzani@cohenlaw.com or the public affairs professional with whom you work.

Podcast – C&G’s “The Public Forum” on KQV 1410 – November 24, 2014

In case you missed it, here is the Podcast from our November 24, 2014 inaugural show.

Hosts were Rob Vescio and Nello Giorgetti from C&G and the guests were the next Speaker of the House, Mike Turzai and Senate Democratic Leader, Jay Costa.

Our next show will air on Monday, December 8, 2014 at 7:00 PM.  Guests will include Michelle Figlar, Executive Director of the Pittsburgh Association for the Education of Young Children and Vince Gastgeb, Assistant Vice President Corporate & Government Affairs for the Allegheny County Airport Authority.

Hope you will join us!

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If you have questions please contact Michelle Vezzani at MVezzani@cohenlaw.com or the public affairs professional with whom you work.

C&G’s Public Affairs Team Launches “The Public Forum” on KQV Radio 1410

The Public Forum is a monthly KQV Radio Talk Show where hosts from our Cohen & Grigsby Public Affairs Team and various guests discuss current topics impacting Harrisburg and D.C. and the business community.

We hope you will listen tonight at 7:00 PM at 1410 AM, KQV.

Our Hosts for tonight’s show are Rob Vescio and Nello Giorgetti with guests, the next Speaker of The House Mike Turzai and Senate Democratic Leader Jay Costa.

If you miss tonight’s airing we will post a podcast to this site soon.