Leaders discuss potential hike in fine for alcohol-related offenses

Fighting For Important Causes In State And Federal Courts

By Katrina Wehr
Collegian Staff Writer
State College Borough Council President Ron Filipelli said he doesn’t leave his home after 10 p.m. and keeps his car inside to prevent damage from drunken passersby.
“It’s like living in two different neighborhoods,” said Filipelli, a longtime resident of the Highlands neighborhood. “One during the day, and a completely different one at night.”
And in an effort to deter students from engaging in the excessive behavior that can result from alcohol abuse, Filipelli — along with state senators, borough officials and community members — met Monday afternoon to discuss legislation that would raise fines for alcohol-related offenses. The legislation aims to raise the maximum fine for alcohol-related summary offenses to $1,000.
The current maximum, $300, has not been changed since the early 1970s, State Sen. Jake Corman, R-Centre, said.
University Park Undergraduate Association President (UPUA) Christian Ragland and Interfraternity Council President Max Wendkos were both present at the hearing and offered their perspectives on the proposed legislation.
Wendkos (senior-marketing and psychology) said he agrees with the goals of Corman’s plan, but doesn’t think the increased fines will stop people from drinking.
He said the reasoning for the legislation should be based more on preventing the extreme behavior that sometimes results from excessive drinking, since these acts often disturb community residents.
The legislation would also allow municipalities that are home to a college or university to charge an extra $100 fee to fund alcohol abuse prevention programs, as long as they have an “alcohol prevention unit” to direct them.
In addition to hearing from State College community members, the panel of five state senators listened to representatives from West Chester, Pa. and Indiana, Pa. The municipalities are home to West Chester University and Indiana University of Pennsylvania, respectively.
“Today we’re looking for public comment,” Corman said in his opening address. “We want to fashion a piece of legislation to make the excessive and dangerous drinking problem go away.”
State College Chief of Police Tom King used statistical figures to illustrate the urgency of a fine increase.
King said 45 percent of the borough’s $18.6 million operating budget is used by the police department, with two-thirds of the 7,000 crimes reported in State College related to alcohol abuse.
He also showed how dated the current $300 fine is by stating its equivalent when adjusted for inflation: $1,326.64.
Ragland (senior-political science) discussed the initiatives student groups are working on to help cut down on excessive and dangerous drinking at Penn State.
He said he supported the legislation and discussed successful UPUA programs like the White Loop extension that have curbed alcohol-related incidents late at night. But he said more funding would be helpful in creating further progress.
“Student leaders are often called on to combat this situation,” Ragland said. “But we don’t always have the resources.”
Though more discussion is necessary, Corman said the meeting was informative and accomplished the goal of getting feedback on the legislation and working toward a solution to the excessive drinking problem.
“It gave everyone a chance to understand what these municipalities are going through with this problem,” Corman said.