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State Police Say Proposal To Change PA Liquor Laws Misses The Point

Pennsylvania State Police tasked with enforcing the commonwealth's liquor code say a new proposal to make it OK to buy booze across the state border misses the point.

A new state House plan would allow Pennsylvanians to buy alcohol across state lines and bring it back for personal consumption — or to be reimbursed for the now-contraband beverages they buy for friends and family.

A memo describing the bill alludes to Arthur Goldman, a Chester County lawyer nabbed for selling out-of-state fine wines from his home.

The legislation has re-ignited debate over Pennsylvania's Prohibition-era liquor code, which outlaws out-of-state beverage runs.

But the proposal is also getting criticism from Liquor Control Enforcement officers like Sgt. Dan Steele, who said the sommelier-barrister was charged not because he bought across the border, but because he was reselling his purchases.

"That's what I think gets lost, that selling of alcohol without a license in Pennsylvania is a misdemeanor offense, no matter where it came from," Steele said.

Rep. John Taylor (R-Philadelphia), who has not yet introduced his proposal, said it "would not change who can sell and who can't sell." He rejected the argument that the bootlegging prohibition is never enforced by Liquor Control Enforcement officers. "They do it for PR purposes and they try to make a big deal out of it," Taylor said.

But Maj. Thomas Butler, with the Liquor Control Enforcement's Harrisburg office, said there was no recent record of such charges. In 2012 and 2013, all of the charges for buying out-of-state alcohol were against people who intended to sell their purchases, he said.

"We're not expending a lot of our resources or efforts in trying to catch people from coming across the border," Butler said. "Our efforts go toward sales to VIPs, sales to minors and quality of life violations that affect the community."

To Taylor, a prohibition that lies fallow may as well be scrapped.

"The whole thing is virtually unenforceable," he said, "which makes it all the more silly to have it on the books."

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