A plan to privatize the way liquor is sold in Pennsylvania is nearing an historic step: final consideration in the House Thursday.

 

Floor debate was expected to drag on Wednesday night.

House Democrats had offered more than 100 amendments making tweaks large and small to a plan to phase out most state wine and spirit stores, allow wine sales in grocery stores and OK beer sales in gas stations.

But they withdrew most of them after one of their largest amendments failed.

"I'm a little surprised that as many amendments were withdrawn, but it made this process a little smoother in terms of second consideration, anyways," said House Speaker Sam Smith (R-Jefferson County)

Still, Rep. Mike Sturla (D-Lancaster County) says final passage isn't a sure thing, given what he saw from the House Majority Leader.

"Mike Turzai was still running up and down the aisles today, trying to coerce people into voting for it. So you don't do that to your members if you have the votes," said Sturla.

House GOP spokesman Steve Miskin dismisses Sturla's observation.

"I don't whether he was running up and down aisles, but he's rarely in his seat just sitting there calmly," said Miskin.

There's nothing calm about what happens next, even if privatization does pass the House Thursday.

Its next stop is the Senate, where top Republicans have been outspoken about favoring a move to keep the state stores and just modernize them by allowing things like longer hours.

House Speaker Sam Smith says the bill is now scheduled for a third and final vote Thursday afternoon.