Friday, August 1, 2014
Inquirer Daily News

Silly State Law

Another example of antiquated, unaccountable liquor laws pumps money into municipalities for no apparent reason.

Silly State Law

(A brief discussion twixt Baer & Baer's editor, a.k.a. BE)

JB: The Harrisburg Patriot-News has uncovered another silly state law administered by the antiquated state Liquor Control Board.

BE: The law that says the only wine on sale is wine selected by "the chairman?"

JB: Sillier. The newspaper's lead story yesterday was about a 1933 law that gives grants to municipalities that don't have police forces to help with local law enforcement.

BE: 1933? That's when prohibition ended.

JB: Yep. Since then, the LCB's given out a total of $410 million, for no apparent reason, with no apparent accounting.

BE: That makes no sense. Who gets it?

JB: Tons of cities, towns and burgs; $2.2 million was handed out in February. Philly got $1 million, and there's another round of the same amount or more coming later this year.

BE: Wait, Philly has a police force.

JB: It does indeed. Nutter spokesman Mark McDonald told the paper the money goes to the police department and the Department of Licenses and Inspections.

BE: But you said the money was for places without police departments.

JB: I also said there was no apparent accountability.

BE: Oh, brother. So how many communities get this dough?

JB: Newspaper says 1,153. Also says only about one-third of those don't have local cops and rely on the State Police for law enforcement. Lots of the grants are small, ranging from as little as $25 to a couple-hundred or a couple-thou, all the way up to Philly's take.

BE: You'd think just the cost of processing a $25 check to Podunk, Pa. would raise some questions.

JB: You'd think a lot of things. Like maybe the legislature would know about it. But the newspaper interviewed several lawmakers who were unaware. Rep. John Payne, R-Dauphin County, when told about the program, seemed to sum up the reaction:"They are writing checks blindly, and they're going to municipalities who are cashing them. There's no audit and [municipalities] are using it for everything under the sun?...That's ridiculous."

BE: He's right.

JB: Another example of state efficiency. Money out the door for who knows what to who knows who year after year after year.

BE: I need a drink.

JB: Hey, maybe you can get a small grant to make sure you're drinking legally.





John Baer Daily News Political Columnist
About this blog
John Baer has been covering politics and government for the Daily News since 1987. The National Journal in 2002 called Baer one of the country's top 10 political journalists outside Washington, saying Baer has, "the ability to take the skin off a politician without making it hurt too much." E-mail John at

John is the author of the book "On The Front Lines of Pennsylvania Politics: Twenty-Five Years of Keystone Reporting" (The History Press, 2012). Reach John at

John Baer Daily News Political Columnist
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