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Pa. Senate heads toward floor debate on liquor

Marc Levy, Associated Press

HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) -- Pennsylvania's Republican senators plan to take their disagreements over legislation to liberalize Pennsylvania's laws on wine, liquor and beer sales to the chamber's floor on Thursday, amid signs of growing desperation among Republican majority leaders to reach a consensus on issues that are important to Gov. Tom Corbett.

Republicans, who control the Senate, spent four-plus hours behind closed doors Wednesday, but they left without any clear idea about what exactly will win a majority of the 50-member chamber, senators said.

Normally, the Senate's Republican leaders do not bring a bill to the chamber's floor unless the Republican majority approves of it and they are assured that it will pass. But Senate Republicans are split over legislation on wine, liquor and beer sales that is being sought by House Republicans and Corbett.

Compounding the problem for Senate Republicans is solid opposition by the chamber's 23 Democrats to any bill that would allow private store operators to sell wine and liquor.

Sen. Michael Brubaker, R-Lancaster, said trying to find the right combination to win enough votes to pass something was like playing with a Rubik's Cube.

"Almost every amendment gains some votes and loses some votes," Brubaker said.

Lawmakers are planning to meet all week as they scramble to wrap up a new budget for the 2013-14 fiscal year that begins Monday and other business before leaving Harrisburg for the summer.

Sen. Richard Alloway, R-Franklin, said the Republicans' closed-door meeting was a good one, and discussion never became heated. The chamber's Republican leaders will decide before Thursday's debate which combination of amendments that they will offer to an underlying wine, liquor and beer sales bill on the floor in an effort to win passage, he said.