Sate Capitol View from Commonwealth Ave.

Supporters Say Good Samaritan Bill Would Save Lives

Anyone under 21, who calls 911 to help a drunk friend, would have legal immunity from underage drinking charges under SB 448.  Senator John Rafferty (R-Montgomery) is the prime sponsor, and he thanked his colleagues on the Senate floor, following this week’s unanimous vote.  “This is a bill designed for good Samaritans to save lives, in a much-needed cause.” 

It has the support of organizations like the Pennsylvania District Attorneys Association and Students Against Destructive Decisions.  “It’s better for them to have the opportunity to get the help for their peers, and to have a way to resolve it amongst themselves, that they’re not going to be liable for this,” says state coordinator for SADD Felicity Debacco-Erni.  She says underage drinking is a serious charge, and this bill addresses a serious issue.  “It’s a decision that unfortunately a lot of students are making not to get the help, because they’re fearful of their own legal issues that will come into play.” 

In a statement, Senator Rafferty said he doesn’t want to give minors a free pass, but neither does he want to discourage those who can help from seeking assistance.  The 911 caller must provide their name, and must remain on scene until emergency assistance arrives.  Before it gets to the governor’s desk, SB 448 must next pass the State House.  It’s now awaiting action in the House Judiciary Committee.

One-Stop Shopping for Beer, Wine and Spirits?

You would be able to buy a bottle of wine or liquor from your local beer distributor, under a plan that’s pending in Harrisburg.  State Rep. John Payne (R-Dauphin) says adding 1,200 stores would be customer-friendly.  “We could instantly use the existing distribution system.  It’s not like you have to reinvent the wheel.”  Payne tells us he’s been working on the bill with State Rep. Mark Mustio (R-Allegheny), and it should be introduced in early June.

While details are still being sorted out, the Malt Beverage Distributors Association (MBDA) of Pennsylvania appears to be on board.  MBDA president Dave Shipula says they’re already responsible alcohol outlets.  Shipula says his members would appreciate the opportunity to sell the additional items, because their sales have been affected by the recent addition of takeout beer sales at some PA grocery stores.

Beer distributors are private companies, so critics of privatizing wine & spirits sales in Pennsylvania are also panning this effort.  President of the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Local 1776 Wendell Young IV doesn’t think PA wants to be a state with 2,000 outlets to sell wine & spirits.  UFCW represents most current wine & spirits stores workers, and Young wonders why nobody is proposing that wine & spirits stores sell beer.  “That would accomplish the one-stop shopping that they say would provide customer convenience.  It would also do it in a way that better controls the sale of alcohol.”

Rep. Payne says that about 45 of the state’s wine & spirits stores are losing money, but are being kept open for various reasons.  He believes wine & spirits stores should be evaluated on a case-by-case basis.  Payne tells us his plan would allow the state to start closing wine & spirits stores that are not profitable.