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Posted at 6:23 PM ET, 02/ 2/2011

Is ABC bill hibernating -- or is it dead?

By Fredrick Kunkle

Del. Robert Brink celebrated Groundhog Day by having a little fun on the floor of Virginia's House of Delegates, slyly wondering why his bill to privatize Virginia's network of liquor stores seemed to be hibernating in committee in the Republican-dominated chamber.

After all, Brink's bill is modeled on an ABC privatization initiative that Gov. Robert F. McDonnell (R) has been pushing since his campaign. The governor himself said nice things about Brink's sponsorship.

"Today is Groundhog Day. Today has turned out to be like every other day since January 20 when I introduced House Bill 2456, the governor's ABC privatization plan," Brink said. " I wake up in the morning filled with the hope that today will be the day my bill gets a hearing."

Of course, Brink was riffing on the comedy classic "Groundhog Day," starring Bill Murray, in which an egomaniac weatherman is given the hated assignment of covering Groundhog Day festivities at Gobbler's Knob in Punxsutawney, Pa. and discovers that he's in a time loop, doomed to repeat the same day, again and again. (For the record, Punxsutawney Phil did not see his shadow on Wednesday, thereby forecasting an early spring.)

But Brink was also tweaking the Republican leadership for not moving his bill, which was introduced to make sure that the GOP could not blame the Democratic-led Senate for killing the governor's initiative. Since then, Brink's bill has been assigned to the House General Laws subcommittee No. 3 ABC/Gaming, which holds its final meeting Thursday before crossover. But the bill is not on the agenda -- a sign that it will likely never see the light of day.

Sen. Mark D. Obenshain (R-Harrisonburg) has introduced a similar bill that has not yet been heard by a Senate committe, but the leadership has said they are waiting on the House to act.

But later, Speaker William J. Howell (R-Howell) acknowledged the obvious: ABC privatization is not exactly hibernating. ABC is dead. It has passed on. It is no more. It has ceased to be. It has expired and gone on to meet its maker. It is bereft of life and resting in peace, etc. -- to riff on another all-time classic from Monty Python....

"You know, that's kind of dropped off the table," Howell said -- about the bill, not the parrot. "So I think we need to step back and work on something for next year."

By Fredrick Kunkle  | February 2, 2011; 6:23 PM ET
Categories:  General Assembly 2011, House of Delegates, Liquor privatization, Robert F. McDonnell, State Senate  
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