We support the effort by state Sen. Jake Corman, R-Benner Township, to increase maximum fines for underage drinking violations and public drunkenness across Pennsylvania — and especially in college towns.
Senate Bills 941 and 943 have passed the Senate and should be addressed in the House when the General Assembly is back in session in September.
Corman said the House Judiciary Committee is expected to host a public forum on the issue in State College this fall before the bill goes before the full House for a vote.
The measures, which have the support of State College Police Chief Tom King, would raise fines for public drunkenness that have been untouched since 1972.
SB 941 would increase the maximum fine for underage drinking violations and public drunkenness to $1,000.
Currently, the highest fine that can be levied is $500 on second and subsequent offenses for underage drinking.
The fine for public drunkenness is now $300 for all offenses.
Companion legislation, SB 943, would add a $100 fee to any alcohol-related offense that occurs in a municipality that is home to all or part of a university or college and for municipalities that also have alcohol-prevention units.
Corman said the change in penalties would be especially meaningful in college towns such as State College, which expend much of their police staffing and budgets on dealing with alcohol-related problems.
Corman said he hopes the higher fines, if adopted, would serve as a deterrent for some who might find themselves in situations that could lead to public drunkenness or underage consumption.
At least, he said, municipalities would see increased revenue for such offenses to help support their police efforts.
“Really, there’s no sound argument against it,” Corman told the Centre Daily Times.
Corman pointed out that if fines for public drunkenness were increased to match the rate of inflation, the cost would be $1,650.
In a statement released after the bill passed the Senate, Corman said: “Drinking violations are a burden across the (c)ommonwealth, but in college and university settings such as State College, the problem is crippling. We have seen a lot of good come out of the efforts by prevention programs to engage the student community and organizations to prevent alcohol problems before they happen. Those types of programs can have a big impact. Hopefully, this legislation will be able to reduce the costs to taxpayers by preventing the alcohol violations from happening in the first place.”
We look forward to a discussion of this situation and would support having that forum held here in Centre County.
And, ultimately, we think this bill should be passed into law.