In its recent critique (editorial, Jan. 4) of the Legislature's 1995 performance, The Times missed the point with regard to my legislation that puts liquor store owners on notice that they may be subject to decoy "sting" operations used to help enforce underage sales of alcohol to minors.
The state's Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) is constitutionally required to enforce the sale of alcoholic beverages, yet it has only 170 enforcement agents to police over 70,000 liquor licenses.
As chairman of the Assembly committee that oversees alcohol policy, I have tried in vain to convince my colleagues that we need to raise the fees we charge the alcohol industry to pay for increases in enforcement personnel. Just last year, my legislation to raise the annual license fee of a liquor store from $24 to $100 was defeated because it was portrayed as an unfair tax increase on small businesses, rather than as a law enforcement issue. However, I was successful in doubling the fines and penalties imposed upon liquor store owners who are caught selling alcohol to minors. That legislation also had a "three strikes" component that provides for the mandatory revocation of a liquor license if the licensee is charged with three incidents of alcohol sales to minors within a three-year period.
Due to the lack of resources available to the ABC to police liquor stores, we need to at least put retailers on warning--which is what the bill you criticized does. This perpetual warning makes up for what the state sorely lacks--enforcement bodies.
CURTIS R. TUCKER JR.