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Posted at 1:45 PM ET, 01/19/2011

UPDATED: Senate Republican pushes governor's ABC plan but prefers his own

By Rosalind S. Helderman
Rosalind S. Helderman

Sen. Mark Obenshain (D-Harrisonburg) said he'll be filing a long-awaited bill to privatize the state's 333 ABC liquor stores Wednesday afternoon, at the request of Gov. Bob McDonnell (R).

But that's not the only bill to privatize the state's liquor system Obenshain is sponsoring this year.

In an unusual bit of parliamentary strategy, Obenshain is sponsoring both the governor's proposal ... and a competing plan to end Virginia's 77-year old monopoly on the sales of distilled spirits.

Obenshain's own proposal would privatize the entire ABC system, including both the wholesale distribution system and the retail stores. It bears similarities to a proposal the governor had been pushing in the fall, which he withdrew from consideration in response to legislative push-back, including from within his own party.

The governor's proposal calls for closing state-owned liquor stores and replacing them with 1,000 private retail outlets but having the state retain control of the lucrative wholesale operation. Obenshain said he would prefer to see the whole system privatized. And the governor's office expressed no concerns about he and Sen. John Watkins (R-Midlothian) sponsoring two versions of the same proposal, because both will allow discussion of the issue to proceed.

"I'm a team player," he said. "I understand that the governor's office has been working with a variety of folks both in and outside the legislature, and there's a reason for how they've constructed their proposal. I happen to prefer something that privatizes the whole thing. It may not be possible."

He noted that "there's no consensus" about ABC privatization and especially ending the state's wholesale monopoly.

"To the extent that we can put other ideas and other pieces of the puzzle in the mix, I think it's a plus," he said. "I'm a strong supporter of ABC privatization, have been and continue to be. The governor is marching us in that direction, and I'm proud to stand with him."

When will the Democratic-controlled Senate hear the ABC bills? "It'll be a while," said Sen. Toddy Puller (D-Fairfax), who chairs the committee that will examine the issue. "We'd like to give time for the House to vote on it."

No word yet on whether the governor plans to introduce the proposal in the House.

UPDATE 5:01 p.m.: The governor's ABC proposal has now hit legislative information services. Sponsored by Obenshain and Watkins, the proposal is Senate Bill 1417.

By Rosalind S. Helderman  | January 19, 2011; 1:45 PM ET
Categories:  General Assembly 2011, House of Delegates, Liquor privatization, Robert F. McDonnell, Rosalind Helderman, State Senate  
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Next: McDonnell quietly issues directive allowing open carry of firearms in state parks


Can someone tell me if the liquor stores are running at a loss?

And, if they aren't running at a loss, then why would the Governor want to get rid of it? Would it prove the Govn't can run things efficiently?

Posted by: mikefromArlington | January 19, 2011 2:17 PM | Report abuse

Obenshain, like his sister and their late father, is a Republican.

Posted by: axman | January 20, 2011 5:17 PM | Report abuse

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