A school board member and business owner is running against another business owner and incumbent for the 106th District of the state House of Representatives.
Lindsay Drew is the Democratic challenger who will appear on the ballot in November, running against Republican state Rep. Tom Mehaffie in the 106th, which covers all of Conewago, Derry and Lower Swatara townships, part of Swatara Township, as well as the boroughs of Hummelstown, Middletown and Royalton.
Both candidates have their priorities that they will address, if elected, but whoever takes office in 2021 will also have to face the fallout of 2020 – namely, the ongoing impact of the coronavirus pandemic.
Here’s what the candidates had to say:
Drew, 37, serves on the Derry Township School board. She is also the founder and president of iChase Solutions, a marketing and consulting firm that works with small businesses and non-profits.
She has served other roles in her community, too, with organizations that include the township’s zoning hearing board, the Human Society of the Harrisburg Area and the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society of Central PA Board of Trustees.
She said her number one issue is making sure public education is fully and fairly funded.
“I feel that it is important to ensure, regardless of the zip code a child lives in, they have access to equitable education,” she said. “That’s not the case in Pennsylvania, given the funding structure.”
She said since a primary source of raising additional revenue for schools is to increase property taxes, the weight of funding education is on local taxpayers, which needs to be addressed so that education can be funded without compromising the financial stability of homeowners.
One way to do that is through charter school reform, she said. While Drew said she supports school choice, the way charter schools are funded is a disproportionate use of public funds. She said since school districts pay the same amount per student attending their district as they do for those who attend a charter school, she wants to work towards balancing those numbers since cyber schools can educate children at a much lower cost, reducing the burden on public schools and taxpayers, she said.
Any educational changes implemented at the state level, though, need to include the input of parents, teachers and school board members, she added.
Healthcare is another important issue for Drew.
“I don’t view healthcare as a luxury or a privilege. It’s a right,” she said. “At the end of the day, people need to have the security in knowing they have access to healthcare.”
That doesn’t just mean the health care provided by insurance, she said. This is where legislators need to step in to ensure hazard pay and sick leave for frontline workers during the pandemic.
Prescription drugs are also unaffordable, she said, and the state needs to take steps to lower the costs and institute more transparency in the way taxpayer dollars are used in those reimbursements. She said she would also advocate for the passage of a bill that would allow for coverage of oral chemotherapy medication, citing too many loopholes in the current legislation that she said allows insurance companies to deny coverage for patients in a health-care crisis.
Affordable health care goes hand-in-hand with the need for a livable wage, Drew said.
“It is completely embarrassing in Pennsylvania that the minimum wage has remained stagnant for so long and has not been adjusted for inflation and cost of living,” she said. “When you pay people a rate they deserve, we all thrive.”
A $15 minimum wage with time and possible programs allow small businesses to accommodate the increased costs would be a priority, she said. The current minimum wage is $7.25 per hour.
And, of course, the coronavirus will have long lasting effects beyond 2020, whether it’s public health, financial or any other complications that may arise.
“We need Harrisburg to protect the people,” Drew said. “The political grandstanding that has occurred has limited peoples’ ability to recover or even start to find a path to recovery.”
The legislature would need to ensure Pennsylvanians are protected equally and step out of the way of progress to make sure first responders and healthcare workers have hazard pay, sick leave and the equipment they need, she said.
Drew said as a business owner, a single mother, a school board director and someone who lives in the community, she is the right person to represent the 106th.
“I have the background to know what Harrisburg should be doing for us and what active representation would mean for our constituents,” Drew said. “Politics has become a very divisive environment. We are better than this, and we deserve better than this. I want to be a public servant and not a politician.”
Mehaffie, 49, has served as the state representative for the 106th since 2017. Prior to being elected to the state House, Mehaffie was a Lower Swatara Township commissioner, and more than 20 years ago, he purchased Breski Beverage Distributor.
He is credited with helping to craft the legislation that aims to put the capital city back on sound financial footing by giving it expanded taxing authority while barring Harrisburg from ever imposing a commuter tax.
He also was among the leading voices speaking out against the closing of the Three Mile Island nuclear power station.
Though unsuccessful, trying to save TMI was an important endeavor to undertake, Mehaffie said, noting that though the plant is not located in his district, most of its employees lived in the 106th.
“That was a tough bill, and it had a lot of opposition, but we’re here to lead and take on these tough bills,” Mehaffie said. “My heart goes out to all of the families and all of the employees who lost their jobs.”
But he has a few other bills in the works and ideas that he wants to tackle if he is reelected to another term.
One of those priorities is House Bill 1900, which is a bill that would license behavior analysts in the state. It has a lot of support, he said, adding “it’s very near and dear to my heart,” but, like many things, it was temporarily waylaid by the pandemic. He hopes to move it forward in the next term.
It would require a licensure program and licensing board for behavior analysts, he said, which would have them falling under Medicare and Medicaid as a coded reimbursement. Insurance companies know it will be a cost savings to for them, as well, because of the help the program would provide for patients, he said.
He noted previous legislation created a behavior specialist license for those working with children with autism, but Mehaffie said his licensure bill would expand licensing to include behavior analysts who help people with PTDS, mental health issues and Alzheimer’s, to name a few, expanding what is covered by insurance and government programs while improving the quality of care, he said.
Another bill he points to is House Bill 2777, which he said would allow for 14 days of paid sick leave for many workers who contract COVID-19.
“I think it’s important that we identify and look into making sure our first responders, our nurses, our hospital staff and those on the frontlines of dealing with COVID patients day in and day out are taken care of,” he said.
The bill would cover other workers, too, like retail employees. It’s important that they have the security of paid sick leave and that they recover at home without infecting others on the job, he said.
Mehaffie also introduced House Bill 2386, which would have given interruption assistance to small businesses that had been closed down by the pandemic. This assistance could cover financial shortages they may have seen and is intended for those who may have been left out of federal assistance, he said.
“I know we can’t pay for everything, but it would be nice to provide any help we can for those who fell behind,” he said.
Those three bills were not passed in this session, but they will be a priority for him to reintroduce and push through if elected to another term, he said.
And in 2021, the coronavirus will continue to be an issue.
“It’s not going to go away. It’s here,” he said. The legislature needs to look at how to navigate it and how to keep senior citizens safe, he said.
Mehaffie added the legislature also needs to pay attention to what’s going on in the hospitals and find ways to help them improve the work that they’re doing. There is a lot of great research being done at places in his district like Penn State Health in Hershey, he said, adding he has been able to secure more than $2 million to help local research companies.
“We need to facilitate and make sure we have the grant programs and the money from our budget going to those research facilities,” he said.
Mehaffie said he got into politics because he has a passion for helping people, and he hopes to be able to continue the work that he has done.
“Whether you’re a voter or not or whatever party you’re in, I’m willing to sit down and talk to you about an issue,” he said. “This isn’t a job for me. It never has been. It has always been a passion for me to work with people, to help people and to do the right thing for the constituents of the 106th District.”
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