Lack of decorum in final Senate booze hearing
By Brad Bumsted
Published: Saturday, June 8, 2013, 9:00 p.m.
From a political standpoint, the third and final meeting of the Senate Law and Justice Committee on liquor privatization last week was unlike any committee hearing I've seen in more than three decades.
After two earlier stacked hearings, with virtually all testimony lining up against selling the state stores, the third hearing was again weighted against privatization, save for the appearance of Lt. Gov. Jim Cawley and senior members of the Corbett administration. This was supposed to be the chance for Corbett's team to come and tell its story.
Gov. Tom Corbett is spearheading the effort to privatize the sale of liquor and wine and make beer purchases more convenient. Corbett's a Republican. The Senate committee is controlled by Republicans. One would think there'd be some degree of cooperation. Instead, Cawley and his panel, including Col. Frank Noonan, commissioner of the state police, and Secretary of Health Michael Wolf, were verbally thrashed by Sen. Jim Ferlo, D-Highland Park, the ranking Democrat.
Now, Chairman Chuck McIlhinney, R-Bucks, can't control Ferlo. No one can. Yet I have seen numerous committee chairmen, in an effort to protect members of their own party or purely for the sake of decorum, pour cold water on such attacks. A stern word here or there often works. Some chairmen right off make it clear questions and statements will deal only with facts and interpretation of facts. Stick to the issues (rather than a charge by Ferlo, for instance, that Wolf isn't qualified to be secretary of Health in the first place).
The fact that yellow-shirted state store clerks took up approximately 80 percent of the committee room's seats was problematic in terms of running a fair hearing. They cheered wildly for Ferlo and, not surprisingly, hooted and jeered at Cawley.
It was laughable that McIlhinney at one point said he would not tolerate any outbursts from the crowd. By then, five or six outbursts had occurred. The damage was done.
Also, the protocol at virtually every hearing I've attended is for lawmakers sponsoring a bill, or the administration's top representative, to testify first. Cawley was slated last. He wound up going next to last due to a scheduling issue.
Putting him in the caboose appeared to be a slap at Corbett's privatization plan as well.
If you gathered by now that the committee members, and maybe the Republican Caucus, have no love for Corbett's idea of broad-scale privatization, you'd be right. This was a negotiating stance by McIlhinney, who's putting a plan together he hopes can garner 26 votes. At most, look for a watered-down version of privatization with more “modernization” of the existing 600 state stores.
It's not unusual for one chamber to send a message to another — in this case the House, which approved a privatization bill in March, or to the governor. And that message was sent loud and clear.
Brad Bumsted is the state Capitol reporter for Trib Total Media (717-787-1405 or email@example.com).
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.
- Progress gives residents hope
- Host of Steelers veterans look toward career survival mode
- Steelers film session: Polamalu not at fault on long run
- Young defensemen lift Penguins to win
- One dead in officer-involved shooting in Monroeville
- Expert: KO doesn’t mean ‘worst’ concussion for Pens’ Orpik
- Father passed on love of music to son, students
- UPMC doctor killed trying to help at 50-vehicle pileup
- Man pleads guilty in drug trafficking
- Penguins’ Neal suspended five games for Marchand hit
- Pirates notebook: Huntington narrows team’s offseason targets