Senate Committee listens to issues about liquor privatization

It has been a little over a month since the House passed Governor Tom Corbett’s Bill to sell off the state’s liquor system. It’s now in the hands of the Senate, where people are far from sold. “I am not for unlimited access, unlimited new licenses, devaluing existing licenses and providing youth alcohol at every corner is not something I think Pennsylvanians want. New packages and more convenient locations, yeah I think that is something we can try to achieve,” said Senator Charles T. McIlhinney, Jr. Chairman of the Senate Law and Justice Committee.

Senator McIlhinney is hoping they can gather information from three public hearings on how to revise the bill to pass the senate. “The house has been fumbling through it for two years. They finally got something to us and today is our turn to take a look at it and go through all of these issues,” he said.

At the first hearing held on Tuesday the Senate Committee listened to testimony on the impacts privatization could have on the community. Speakers included people from law enforcement, Mothers Against Drunk Driving, and drug and alcohol service providers.

Joe Kovel, the president of the Pennsylvania Troopers Association said with this bill, responsibilities will fall on police. Law enforcement officials are asking for extra money to be directed to them in a revised bill. “You have to fund us. We cannot afford another unfunded mandate and the way this is presented that is exactly what it is,” said Kovel.

Drug and alcohol agencies weighed in strongly against the plan. “Alcohol is public enemy number one. Alcohol is not the same as bread. We should not be normalizing it. Anybody who thinks alcohol is bread needs to spend a day with me in detox you cannot imagine the human suffering from people of every walk of life,” said Deb Beck, President of Drug and Alcohol Service Providers Organization of PA. “If you increase access, you increase consumption and alcohol-related problems. It should be an inconvenience to those looking for a quick fix. We can’t handle what we got why would you make this worse?”

The next hearing is tentatively scheduled for May 15,2013.  “We’re going to hear from the retailers, people who want to sell it. We’re going to hear from the wholesalers who say they can get better prices in to us,” McIlhinney said.

A third hearing will be held in the beginning of June and McIlhinney hopes to put together a revised plan by the middle of June. “Whether it gets the votes, it passes and signed by the governor I can’t predict that, but I can predict that I will put up a proposal and put it to a vote; a privatization plan.”