WA moves closer to privatizing liquor distribution

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OLYMPIA, Wash. (AP) -- The Washington state Legislature has approved a proposal that moves the state closer to privatizing the distribution of liquor.

The measure passed a highly divided Senate on a 26-19 vote. Earlier, House lawmakers inserted an "emergency" clause implements the bill immediately. The measure now heads to Gov. Chris Gregoire.

The proposal would direct the Office of Financial Management to seek out contracts for private companies to lease the state's liquor warehouse. Under the measure, OFM decides if the bids are good deals for the state.

Proponents say that it would raise much-needed revenue, while opponents say that the proposal is too rushed and the state could lose money.

The measure may come into conflict with an initiative backed by Costco and others that would privatize the distribution and sale of liquor. Backers of that initiative have to gather signatures to get on the November ballot.

Two initiatives to privatize liquor failed last year.