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Consequences of Soft on Crime

The district attorney responsible for the release of a career violent offender charged in the deadly Christmas parade rampage in Waukesha over two weeks ago has long espoused a reckless approach to crime that is now being replicated, copied by prosecutors across America. Here in Pennsylvania, the effects of this new approach are clearly showing an impact.

The website for Milwaukee County District Attorney John Chisholm boasts "Progressive prosecutors in Philadelphia, Boston, St. Louis, and San Francisco have followed in John's footsteps and designed similar programs" that partner with activists to determine policies on bail and prosecution.

The man charged in the November 21st parade massacre was out on just $1,000 cash bail after he allegedly ran over the mother of his child with his vehicle on November 2nd. As a result of that absurdly low bail, six innocent parade-goers were killed and 48 injured a few weeks after his release.

What's worse is that the district attorney knew something like this would be the result of the movement to inject left-wing ideology into the prosecution of criminals.

 "Is there going to be an individual I divert, or I put into treatment program, who's going to go out and kill somebody?" Chisholm said in a 2007 interview. "You bet. Guaranteed. It's guaranteed to happen. It does not invalidate the overall approach."

The results of this "progressive" approach to prosecution have been disastrous for citizens in Pennsylvania's largest city under District Attorney Larry Krasner.   This summer, Philadelphia's murder rate became the highest per capita of America's 10 largest cities. Philly is now over 500 homicides for 2021, setting a record with a month left in the year.

One of those recent victims was a 21-year-old Temple University student killed shortly after Thanksgiving. The suspect in that crime had been previously arrested and charged in connection with another armed carjacking. Incredibly, a municipal judge required unsecure bail, meaning the defendant did not have to post any money to stay out of jail. Predictably, DA Krasner did not appeal.

Records indicate his office successfully filed a motion to drop all charges after trying only twice to get a "victim/witness" to appear at a preliminary hearing. Less than two months later, the former defendant killed the Temple student while he was unloading his mother's SUV after returning home from Thanksgiving.

The effects of Philly's soft on crime policies will not remain within city limits. Violent crime will spread to neighboring suburban counties as well.  Delaware County saw a 127 percent increase in homicides in 2020. Are Montgomery, Bucks, and Chester (all within a short drive from Philadelphia) next?

Progressive soft on crime ideas have spread to all levels of Democratic leadership in Pennsylvania.

Senate Democrats have introduced legislation, supported by Gov. Tom Wolf, to end cash bail entirely.

Wolf has called for changing the way bail is implemented in Pennsylvania, saying, "Our cash bail system is costly, unfair and doesn't work."

The elimination of cash bail will almost certainly lead to an influx of violent crime from freshly released criminals.

Shielding law abiding citizens from bad ideas does not mean we shouldn't improve the process where needed. In the last two years, the General Assembly enacted laws to:

  • Better assess the unique risks and needs of probationers to reduce incarceration and cut costs to taxpayers.
  • Streamline the placement of offenders in drug treatment programs and other intermediate punishment programs.
  • Expand Pennsylvania's definition of institutional sexual assault to include law enforcement officers and any person in the officer's custody.
  • Expunge an individual's criminal history record if the individual has been acquitted or pardoned.
  • Require thorough background checks for prospective law enforcement applicants.

These are widely supported, non-ideological changes implemented to preserve public safety while reducing costs for taxpayers. They are a far cry from the radical movement to release dangerous criminals into communities in response to the demands of left-wing activists.

Governor Wolf recently blocked legislation to allow citizens in those communities to protect themselves. He vetoed a measure I co-sponsored that would have ensured those legally allowed to own a gun the ability to carry it openly or concealed, without needing a permit. A long wait period for permit approval can be a matter of life and death for a law-abiding citizen living in a high-crime area.

As the "progressive" Milwaukee County district attorney himself noted, atrocities like the massacre at the Waukesha Christmas parade are the expected result of policies that divert violent criminals from prison and put them onto the streets.

Every elected official in Pennsylvania has a duty to speak out against the further spread of these dangerous policies.

Sincerely,

Senator Doug Mastriano

NOTE: Sen. Doug Mastriano represents the 33rd Senate District in Pennsylvania.

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Time To End Government Control

Since 1933, Pennsylvania has run an archaic system for the sale of wine and spirits. At the time, Governor Gifford Pinchot, taking action after the repeal of prohibition, established the current state store system run by the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board (PLCB). After nearly 90 years of this state-run monopoly, now is the time to end government control of the sale of wine and spirits.

Governor Pinchot, a Republican, faced opposition to his plan from the other side of the aisle for fear it would create a "political machine" and "a second era of prohibition for Pennsylvania". These statements have certainly come to fruition, and now it is members of Pinchot's own party that are calling for a stop to this costly system that only remains in place because of the political influence of the unions that represent state store workers.

One of these organizations in particular, the United Food and Commercial Workers Union (UFCW), is led by a man being compensated over $400,000 a year between salary and benefits. Keeping this hefty paycheck is his priority, not the interests of consumers or taxpayers. On top of that, UFCW pumps millions of dollars into the coffers of political candidates, including a half a million just to the Governor, and they use the threat of a primary challenger to strongarm sitting legislators into voting against issues that UFCW opposes – like privatization.

Sadly, all of this flies in the face of one of Governor Pinchot's key goals of keeping liquor and politics separate.

Of course, keeping politics separate from any issue these days is near impossible. What isn't impossible though, is separating our state government from the actual business of alcohol. It is one thing for government to regulate the sale of a product such as alcohol. It is quite another for government to be both the wholesaler and retailer of that product.

The PLCB continues to tout its supposed increased profits, but what they fail to disclose is their arbitrary markups on products, the more than $1 billion in pension liabilities for the thousands of employees, including state store workers, and the amount spent for the leasing of roughly 600 liquor store locations.

This state-run business is a very expensive one to operate, and the touting of profits is both laughable and disturbing. The PLCB and UFCW both use the argument that privatization will essentially lead to the downfall of society by providing easier access to alcohol. All the while, the PLCB is using marketing materials to get consumers to buy more – even using discount incentives that licensees are prohibited from employing under the Liquor Code.

Protecting Pennsylvanians from accessing alcohol is not a pillar of the PLCB, especially considering the state stores don't even have to card customers, as is required of all other retailers. The bottom line is, the PLCB is a business aiming to make a profit, and they will continue to fight to maintain their monopoly in the Commonwealth. Unfortunately, they fail to recognize consumer demands for convenience and product selection, something successful businesses do every day.

Convenience in today's world of online shopping and curbside pickup should not be viewed negatively with regard to alcohol. I very much recognize the importance of protecting young people from having access but restricting responsible adults on where they can purchase liquor and what they can purchase is exactly what it sounds like – a system that was born out of prohibition.

And the people advocating for protecting this antiquated system, including Governor Wolf and the UFCW, are some of the same people pushing to permanently allow for mixed drinks to-go. Recall, restaurants were allowed to sell such beverages during the Governor's COVID shutdowns. Anyone who claims privatization will have negative impacts by providing easier access to alcohol should not be advocating for people to leave a restaurant with a to-go cup filled with an unknown amount of liquor and a piece of tape over the straw hole.

What they should be recognizing is that the PLCB system is losing money by limiting the products they are willing to sell in our state stores. In turn, this keeps both small, Pennsylvania-based and large-scale, international companies from garnering shelf space and doing business in the Commonwealth. This then forces residents to cross state lines to find in-demand products, filling those states' coffers and under our current laws, making criminals out of those residents who transport alcohol back into Pennsylvania.

As we go into 2022, it is time to emerge from the dark ages of our prohibition-era system and once and for all, privatize liquor sales in Pennsylvania. I strongly support my colleague, Representative Natalie Mihalek's efforts to do so and encourage other members of the legislature – and the public – to join me.

Sincerely,

Senator Mike Regan

NOTE: Senator Mike Regan serves as Chairman of the Senate Law and Justice Committee and represents Pennsylvania's 31st Senatorial District covering parts of Cumberland and York Counties.

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