Put up your dukes

Gov. Corbett, joined by Speaker of the House Sam Smith (left) and Lt. Gov. Jim Cawley, draws applause at a joint session of the Pennsylvania House and Senate. Corbett offered a plan without spending cuts this time. MATT ROURKE / Associated Press


Tuesday's third and final hearing on whether to privatize Pennsylvania's state-run liquor stores turned into somewhat of a smackdown between a Democratic senator and the state's lieutenant governor.

It was going on hour four of the third and final privatization hearing before the Senate Law and Justice Committee, and it was the Corbett administration's turn to defend its position that privatizing the sale of alcohol is the right thing for Pennsylvania.

Lt. Gov. Jim Cawley had just finished testifying when Sen. Jim Ferlo (D., Allegheny) asked to speak.

"I'm trying to behave myself here," Ferlo began, "but I think your statements and your assessment here is totally outrageous and inappropriate."

Ferlo noted that he was particularly upset that Cawley was seated at the witness table with State Police Commissioner Frank Noonan and Secretary of Health Michael Wolf.

"I'm particularly upset that we have a so-called Secretary of Health that would even come to a table and begin to try and persuade the public that somehow the proliferation of alcohol in neighborhoods throughout the commonwealth, rural or urban, is somehow an urgent public health initiative."

The senator then tore into Noonan, saying he thought it was also "outrageous" that Noonan, the commander of the state police, would sit at the table in support of a plan that would increase the availability of alcohol.

"I'd be embarrassed to come here and tout this," Ferlo said, much to the crowd's delight - mostly, unionized state store workers, who cheered him on.

Cawley didn't miss a beat. Visibly angry, he started: "What should be embarrassing to you is the way in which you just impugned the character of three very excellent public servants."

"You attacked them as individuals, you attacked their motivations," said Cawley.

"What you said was beyond the pale," the lieutenant governor said. "This is a responsible proposal put forth by responsible people who aren't playing to a crowd in this room."


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