Is our state government hopelessly arrogant or hopelessly stupid? Liquor licenses tell the tale.

State Rep. Frank Burns represents Cambria and Somerset counties east of Pittsburgh. A Democrat, Burns is a senior member of the Liquor Control Committee of the state House of Representatives.

Soon, he will need to vote whether to allow the Liquor Control Board to increase the number of restaurant liquor licenses available statewide.

To help him make his decision, Rep. Burns asked the Liquor Control Board to tell him the number of restaurant liquor license now available in each Pennsylvania county.

That makes sense.

“That is a trade secret,” said Shawn Kelly, a spokesman for the Liquor Control Board.

Huh?

How can a state agency have a “trade secret?”

At this writing, it is not clear whether Kelly is terminally stupid about “public records,” or whether he is only dutifully saying what he was told to say by others within the Liquor Control Board hierarchy who might be the ones suffering from terminal stupidity.

What is even more astounding is that, to date, the Republicans who run both the House and Senate have not awakened and bluntly told the Liquor Control Board, “Either release the information or resign, because if you do not, there will be no money for you in the next year’s budget.”

This boils down to who runs Pennsylvania, the elected Pennsylvania Legislature or the appointed Liquor Control Board.

Beneath the surface insanity lurks the suspicion that people behind this might want to snap up more licenses and then resell them at huge profits to convenience stores that are now rushing to get “restaurant” licenses.

Earlier this year, we learned that state law and the Liquor Control Board are making those convenience stores build unneeded dine-in additions to their stores to pretend that they are restaurants, instead of simply creating a new category of liquor license, that of “convenience store,” as common sense would dictate.

In a free society, an agency of state government cannot keep “trade secrets” from an elected lawmaker who needs the information to decide about voting on proposed legislation. “Trade secrets” are the purview of private business, not of state government.

This is not a partisan issue. It ought not to be a turf war, either.

Legislators, Republicans and Democrats, should put a stop to this stupidity right now.

— Denny Bonavita

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