State Police Commissioner: Agency Ready For Expanded Liquor Enforcement

Wilkes-Barre Citizens Voice

State Police Commissioner Frank Noonan waded into one aspect of the liquor privatization debate Tuesday, saying his agency is fully capable of enforcing liquor laws even with a greatly expanded number of outlets selling alcohol.

“I think we are more than capable,” said Noonan, speaking after a Senate committee hearing where his presence and that of another cabinet official provoked a denunciation from a Democratic senator.

Noonan and state Health Secretary Michael Wolf accompanied Lt. Gov. Jim Cawley to a Law and Justice Committee hearing on the liquor privatization bill approved last March by the House.

Cawley provided the testimony for one of Gov. Tom Corbett’s top priorities, but Sen. Jim Ferlo, D-Pittsburgh, the committee’s ranking Democrat, criticized the attendance of the state police commissioner and health secretary in support of selling the state-owned liquor stores.

Noonan said he didn’t take Ferlo’s remarks personally and wasn’t offering an opinion on the issue of controlling alcohol sales in Pennsylvania.

He said revenue transfers from the state Liquor Control Board for liquor law enforcement and requirements in the bill for retailers to use “swipe card” technology to verify the purchaser’s age will help the state police carry out enforcement duties.

In his testimony, Cawley said the governor authorized a transfer of $21.8 million in fiscal 2011-12 from the LCB for liquor law enforcement and plans an additional $5 million transfer. The state Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs will get an additional $1.5 million for education efforts on alcohol abuse, he said.

At an earlier Senate committee hearing, Jim Kovel, president of the Pennsylvania State Troopers Association, said that liquor privatization would require hiring up to 75 state troopers.

The House-approved bill would phase out the 600 state-owned liquor stores and create 1,200 private wine and spirits licenses and allow grocery stores to sell wine.

The bill includes provisions to double fines for licensees who violate the Liquor Code, require alcohol use training for all licensed retailers and their employees and greater use of age compliance checks, said Stephen Miskin, spokesman for House Majority Leader Mike Turzai, R-Pittsburgh.

There is sentiment among both parties in the Senate in favor of modernizing the state-owned liquor system instead.