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Posted at 4:34 PM ET, 01/20/2011

McDonnell 'pleased' Democrats introduced liquor bill in House of Delegates

By Anita Kumar
Anita Kumar

The partisan fun has really begun now.

First, House Democrats laughed about how they were outmaneuvering Republican Gov. Bob McDonnell by introducing his bill to privatize the state liquor stores after no Republican delegate did.

Now McDonnell is saying through a spokesman that's he's "pleased" that Del. Robert H. Brink (D-Arlington) -- the House Democrats' political leader and a member of McDonnell's Commission on Government Reform, which debated liquor privatization -- introduced the bill.

"We appreciate the House Democrats choosing Delegate Brink for this important legislation,'' said McDonnell spokesman Tucker Martin. "His serious reputation confirms that, by sponsoring this bill, he endorses ending this archaic government monopoly. We know he wouldn't put his good name on a measure that he doesn't support. We will review his legislation closely prior to making specific comments about it."

Brink, of course, has expressed opposition to the liquor privatization proposal several times.

"What I said was, I have very, very big concerns about the idea of selling of something that is as profitable to the state budget as this is,'' Brink told reporters Thursday afternoon. "I think we need to look at the figures to make sure the numbers work, and the way to do that is to make sure we have a vehicle out there to work off of."

House Democrats said they introduced McDonnell's bill because they they were concerned that the governor intended to introduce the controversial bill only in the Democratic-led Senate -- where it will probably be killed -- so he could blame Democrats for the bill's death.

Sen. Mark Obenshain (R-Harrisonburg) introduced SB1417, which calls for 1,000 private retail outlets -- a scaled-back version of McDonnell's original plan.

Delegates have until Friday to introduce bills. They are limited to 15 bills. According to the governor's office, Del. Scott Lingamfelter (R-Prince William) has agreed to sponsor a separate liquor privatization bill in the House if aides decide to file one there.

"This is an important issue,'' Brink said. "It's something we've been wrestling with on the Government Reform Commission throughout the last session and into this session. It's something that needs to be heard and considered."

Martin said in a lengthy statement that the Democrats' move shows they are now willing to embrace another strategy for transportation funding besides tax increases.

"Today's announcement demonstrates that some of their members now recognize their massive tax hike plans are not supported by Virginians and that new ideas must be considered and advanced,'' he said.

By Anita Kumar  | January 20, 2011; 4:34 PM ET
Categories:  Anita Kumar, General Assembly 2011, House of Delegates, Liquor privatization, Robert F. McDonnell, State Senate  
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Meanwhile North Carolina Gov. Perdue has announced today that she is opposed to ABC privatization in her state. Unlike Gov. McDonnell, after study of the issue, she sees it now as a "core service."

Health and safety is and should be the most important factor here. The general welfare is not served by making hard liquor more easy to come by than bread, everywhere families go -- pharmacies, supermarkets, big box stores, gas station mini-marts ... increasing consumption and harm and the associated cost to the citizens of Virginia, sidelining more of our young people...

Posted by: anonymousid | January 20, 2011 6:19 PM | Report abuse

While I agree that it is particularly insidious that the state government will be profiteering off of the expanded distribution of a controlled substance, the motivating factors on both sides of the debate are fiscally driven. Both sides of the aisle should just sit down and realize that they're arguing for essentially the same point and figure out which plan will result in the greatest monetary benefit for the state.

Really the state should not be advocating for the increased use of alcohol for obvious reasons (public health and safety concerns to name a few); however, the continuation of their control over ABC stores runs opposite to these goals. Virginia's ABC stores are a business, and like any good business their owner would like to see them succeed. In order for them to succeed they need to sell as much product as possible. But the state also has an enormous vested interest in keeping down the social costs of alcohol consumption (heath and safety) so they are operating against their own best interest. Virginia (and really any state government) needs to get out of the business of selling and distributing alcohol.

Posted by: nadown | January 25, 2011 4:38 PM | Report abuse

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