Last week's Pennsylvania House vote to end decades of strict government control over the sale of alcohol was certainly historic.

It's the first time such a measure has cleared a chamber, despite efforts dating back at least to Gov. Dick Thornburgh's administration.

But it's a little early to be making toasts.

State Senators are decidedly less excited about shuttering the state stores than their counterparts in the House.

Amid the representatives' back-slaps and fists-pumps, Senate Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi's reaction to the House vote Thursday was like a splash of cold water.

"It's not something that's been an item of active interest and discussion in the Senate," he said.

However, Pileggi said the Senate could hold hearings on the House bill in a month or two, and Senate President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati said he expects Senate action sometime before the end of the year.

Not exactly the fast track, but at least the Senate is willing to take up the bill -- even if the two leaders appeared to be lowering expectations for its passage.

We hope it gets a fair chance.

Poll after poll shows large majorities of Pennsylvanians favor privatizing the state liquor stores. Yet year after year, we've seen the will of the people thwarted in Harrisburg.

It doesn't make sense.


For most people this is a simple issue: Pennsylvania has no business being in the booze business, putting itself in the contradictory position of enforcing the state's alcohol laws while at the same time pushing alcohol sales.

It's also about the inconvenience this bizarre system causes by telling law-abiding adults where, when and how much alcohol they can purchase.

As we've noted before, even the Bible Belt and Deep South states decades ago abandoned the strict control of alcohol sales that Pennsylvania now shares only with ultra-conservative Utah.

We're cautiously optimistic the Keystone State is on the verge of change.

The House bill on liquor store privatization cleared the House with surprising speed after some very reasonable changes were make to Gov. Tom Corbett's original proposal.

Those amendments gave beer distributors first shot at liquor licenses -- plus years to pay for them -- while also calling for phasing out the state-owned stores gradually as private liquor stores open across the state.

Pileggi noted Corbett's flexibility while working with the House on the bill -- and he expects the governor to keep that attitude as the Senate begins work.

So do we.

Certainly there's room for more compromise. But not if the final product looks like several other competing bills floating around the Senate.

Those bills would retain the state-store system, while modernizing it and making it more convenient.

That is not the change Pennsylvanians are thirsting for.