State FOP chief: Crime would spike without state control of liquor sales
HARRISBURG — Privatizing state liquor stores under a House bill would drain police resources and result in higher crime rates, the president of the Pennsylvania Fraternal Order of Police told a Senate panel on Tuesday.
The bill would “lead to more alcohol-related and collateral-type crimes, which will create a greater risk of harm to police officers and to the civilians we are sworn to protect,” the FOP's Les Neri said.
“Nobody can say that,” Col. Frank Noonan, the state police commissioner and a former FBI agent, told reporters afterward.
“There is no way to tell, really,” Noonan said, noting that people can cite studies to make virtually any point.
Neri was one of several witnesses testifying to the Senate Law and Justice Committee about the bill, which Republican Gov. Tom Corbett supports. It would allow wine sales in grocery stores and would phase out state liquor stores.
The committee could play a key role in shaping or killing liquor reform legislation. Chairman Chuck McIlhinney, R-Bucks County, plans two more hearings. He told reporters he intends to put together his own bill for the committee's consideration by mid-June.
It will be difficult to get 26 votes needed for passage in the 50-member Senate, McIlhinney said.
In an open letter to all senators, David Taylor, executive director of the Pennsylvania Manufacturers Association, said the lineup of critics at the hearing “seems intended to generate ill-will towards privatization because of so-called ‘social impacts.' ”
McIlhiney denied any such effort. The next hearing will focus on retailers and the third on testimony from the governor's office.
Pennsylvania and Utah are the only states whose governments control wholesale and retail liquor sales. Pennsylvania's system is a vestige of Prohibition, established in 1933 to make liquor purchases difficult.
Despite witnesses opposing privatization, Corbett called the hearing “a first step in bringing Pennsylvanian consumers choice and convenience.”
Sen. Jim Ferlo of Highland Park, the committee's ranking Democrat, said privatization “is about ideology and stupidity, as far as I'm concerned.” Ferlo is sponsoring a bill to “modernize” the 600-plus state stores to try to increase profits.
The House approved its bill last month.
Other witnesses told the Senate panel that without millions of newfound dollars, privatization would place public safety at risk.
“The need for professional liquor law enforcement will be even greater,” said Charles Rubino, president of the Pennsylvania Liquor Enforcement Association.
The state police Bureau of Liquor Enforcement, with 140 officers, enforces liquor laws. At least 70 to 75 troopers would be needed if the privatization bill becomes law, said Joe Kovel, president of the Pennsylvania State Troopers Association. He said he was not testifying for or against the House bill.
Brad Bumsted is Trib Total Media's state Capitol reporter.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Crosby scores twice, Malkin delivers OT goal as Penguins beat Blues
- Artis leads Pitt to lopsided victory over Cornell
- Steelers veteran linebacker Harrison focused on stretch run
- Emotional send-off awaits Pitt seniors
- Penguins co-owner Lemieux snuffs rumored rift with Crosby
- Penguins notebook: Blues defenseman Bortuzzo sticks to brutish ways
- Steelers notebook: Tomlin ends practice with third-down work
- Nothing like the real ring: WWE returns to Pittsburgh for more success
- Pirates sign free agent 1B-OF Goebbert, RHP Webster
- Year’s worth of rain floods Qatar
- Hot Ticket: Juried exhibition at Southern Alleghenies Museum of Art at Ligonier Valley