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Pa. bill allowing wine sales in grocery stores comes with a few extras

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Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf shakes hands with House Speaker Mike Turzai, R-Allegheny County, after signing House Bill 1690 at the state Capitol in Harrisburg, Pa.,Wednesday, June 8, 2016. At the table with Gov. Wolf, from left, is Rep. Paul Costa, D-Allegheny and Sen. Charles McIlhinney, R-Bucks County. House Bill 1690 would, among other things, allow for wine sales at grocery stores, longer state store hours and casinos will be able to sell booze 24 hours a day.
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Steph Chambers | Tribune-Review
Don Palumbo of Delmont pulls a Yellowtail Pinot Noir off the shelf at Fine Wine & Good Spirits in Delmont on Thursday, June 2, 2016.

HARRISBURG — Gov. Tom Wolf on Wednesday signed a bill allowing wine carry-out from grocery stores that includes a little-noticed provision that creates wine and malt beverage boards dominated by legislative appointees who will dole out grants with public money to promote Pennsylvania products.

Each board would include four legislative appointees and another member selected by the governor. Republican and Democratic leaders in the House and Senate will name the board members.

The bill provides for $1 million in public money for each board to hand out. Money for the wine board would come from an excise tax levied on direct shipment of wine to consumers’ homes, a key provision of the new law. The state Liquor Control Board would pay for the costs of the board promoting beer, said Jennifer Kocher, a Senate Republican spokeswoman.

“It’s not taxpayers’ money,” Kocher said. “It’s not coming from the general fund. It’s not money that would otherwise, for instance, be going to education.”

The boards will use “a competitive review process” for awarding the grants, the law states.

Under the law, consumers would be able to carry out four bottles of wine from grocery stores with restaurant licenses.

“This is truly a historic day for Pennsylvania and the most significant step the commonwealth has taken to reform our liquor system in 80 years,” Wolf said.

The law allows expanded hours for state stores, including some holidays and limited hours on Sundays. The change is expected to boost state revenue, proponents say.

Under the new law:

• Casinos would be able to purchase licenses enabling them to sell liquor 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The license would cost $1 million initially with a $1 million renewal after four years, then $250,000 a year;

• When Groundhog Day falls on a Sunday (which it will in 2020), a hotel or restaurant may sell liquor or malt and brewed beverages from 7 a.m. until 2 a.m. the following day, according to a Senate analysis;

• Allows bed and breakfasts to provide one bottle of Pennsylvania wine to paying guests at check-in;

• Permits airport restaurants to sell alcohol within the airport terminal building and to serve alcohol after 5 a.m.;

• Brewery licensees could purchase permits for selling products at farmers markets.

Brad Bumsted is the Tribune-Review’s state Capitol reporter. Reach him at 717-787-1405or [email protected].

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