Lots of holes in Senate liquor hearing arguments
The first Senate hearing on liquor privatization last week was a farce.
It was stacked mostly with witnesses who testified that crime will soar if Pennsylvania closes the state stores and alcoholism will increase. Underage drinking will rise and more drunken drivers will die on highways, they suggested.
It was a very scary picture presented to the Senate Law and Justice Committee, chaired by Sen. Chuck McIlhinney, R-Bucks County, who has largely lined up against selling the state stores until a recent comment stunningly suggested otherwise. He's been all over the map. Last year, he filed legislation to keep the state stores open through “modernization.”
It was such a frightening scenario from witnesses that one wonders how 48 other states with some form of private sales continue to exist. There must be chaos and mayhem in the streets every day.
What was insulting was the lack of any reasonable effort to balance the scales.
Gov. Tom Corbett is the leading proponent of selling the state stores. But he was not invited. The Republican governor's aides offered to testify before the GOP-controlled Senate. They were ignored.
The governor's office will testify in the third and final hearing in June, McIlhinney said.
If McIlhinney would have invited State Police Col. Frank Noonan, the commander appointed by Corbett, he would have heard that there is no way to accurately claim that crime relates to the degree of liquor privatization.
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 toward privatization because of so-called ‘social impacts.' ”
McIlhinney denied any motivation to stack the deck. But that's what he did.
“You saw a little bit more on the critical side” because of the issues addressed, he acknowledged.
The next hearing will focus on retailers, he said. That means beer distributors talking about what a raw deal they'll get despite a House bill that would give them up to a year to decide whether to buy a license to sell liquor and wine. There's no question some distributors will have to decide whether it is worth the cost of expansion. But the value of some distributor licenses would soar under the House bill.
The bill, which already dilutes Corbett's original proposal, was still a significant step forward.
Senate President Pro Tem Joe Scarnati, R-Jefferson, said there's not much support in the Senate for the House bill.
I wonder, if at the next hearing for retailers, McIlhinney would dare invite Kevin Shivers, executive director of the National Federation of Independent Business in Pennsylvania. He calls Pennsylvania's system a “Soviet-style liquor system.”
Here's the conclusion I draw from McIlhinney's one-sided hearing, a drama funded by state taxpayers: We are, somehow, safer with state employees at 600-plus stores selling us bottles of wine and liquor.
Brad Bumsted is the state Capitol reporter for Trib Total Media (717-787-1405 or firstname.lastname@example.org).
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.
- Man charged with playing doctor for free Nemacolin stay
- Nor’easter causing flight delays at Pittsburgh International
- Steelers cornerback Taylor ready to swap earpiece for helmet
- Lawyers agree to dismiss Penn Hills High School student lawsuit
- Penguins notebook: Bennett status remains fluid
- Cancer didn’t stop mother from living for her son
- DUI checkpoints take on dangerous drivers
- Steelers’ lookahead: New Orleans Saints
- Ehrhoff finding his way with Penguins
- Review: ‘Newsies’ a great addition to musical standards
- U.S. Steel Tower tenants stand to benefit from company’s relocation