2020 Leg. Candidate Questionnaire: Eric Roe, Republican for State Rep., 158th District

Editor’s Note: As has been our tradition, The Times sent our its annual questionnaire to all Chester County legislative candidates, via their respective party. We publish these responses entirely unedited and unfiltered to give readers an honest assessment of the candidates and their positions. They will be published as candidates return them to us.

Eric Roe,GOP candidate, 158th District

1. Although there are many major challenges facing Pennsylvania, the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic is currently front and center. There is stark disagreement in the current legislature on Gov. Tom Wolf’s handling of the Pandemic. What, if anything, would you do differently and why?

While I appreciate Governor Wolf’s efforts to mitigate this virus, I would have done a few things differently: 1) I would have allowed real estate transactions to continue because shelter is a basic human need. Unlike my opponent, Christina Sappey, I would have consistently voted to reopen real estate in Pennsylvania. 2) I would give school districts the discretion to decide how many spectators to allow into an outdoor stadium when school sports are being played. If a student athlete gets injured on the field, I’d like to know that his or her parents were allowed to be in the stadium at the time. Christina Sappey sided with Gov. Wolf to prevent school districts from making these decisions when she voted against HB 2787. 3) I would NEVER have allowed individuals testing positive for COVID-19 to be admitted to nursing homes. And, unlike Christina Sappey, I would have voted for the state budget that provided critical funds to make our nursing homes safer.

2. Although Pennsylvania was facing a fiscal shortfall before the pandemic, now it is expected to range between $3 and $5B. How would you close that budget gap? Cuts, taxes? Be specific, what programs/funding would you cut or what taxes would you raise (or work to create new revenue streams)?

The best way to generate tax revenues is to create more taxpayers. The budget shortfall is due to job losses from the shutdown. We need to get Pennsylvanians working again with precautions set in place to prevent the spread of the virus. In addition to that, here are a few ways that I would try to close the budget gap: 1) Merge state-level departments wherever it would make sense to do so without interrupting state services. For example, the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission could be merged with PennDOT. 2) We could save some money in the long-term by placing solar panels on top of state-owned buildings. The initial cost of this infrastructure would not close the budget gap, but it would set in place a long-term cost saving mechanism. 3) I would make cuts to certain corporate welfare schemes to help close the budget gap. Corporations whose revenues are in the hundreds of millions should not be getting sweetheart deals when the average Pennsylvanian is suffering because of this pandemic.

3. Public school funding and property taxes continue to be a concern in Pennsylvania — state funding of public schools as a percentage of budget continues to slide, a trend that is more than 30 years old. With litigation for fair funding in process, how would you change how the state funds its public schools.

School funding should reflect the number of students enrolled in each school. School districts whose enrollment is increasing should see more money for their schools in the state budget, and those funds should be proportionate to that school’s increased size in comparison to schools whose enrollment is decreasing.

4. Following on, Pennsylvania is 47th by some measures in funding higher education — many other state schools charge less for out of state students than Pa. schools charge for in state students. Is the state underfunding our higher education institutions?

Pennsylvania is not adequately funding the schools in our PASSHE system. West Chester University is easily the most successful of its universities, so it can be easy to forget that the rest of the PASSHE universities are suffering.

5. Tom Wolf and Lt. Gov. John Fetterman have come out strongly for legalization of marijuana for adults (and expunging records for those with possession convictions). Where do you stand on this issue?

I would be happy to support certain decriminalization efforts to prevent people from spending time in prison over marijuana violations, but I cannot state my support for the full legalization of recreational marijuana at this time.

6. Policing and its funding have been part of a national conversation of late. Should local municipalities be expected to pay more of the costs of State Police if they do not have local police? Additionally, does the state need to find a new funding mechanism for law enforcement funding, either locally or statewide.

No, local municipalities should not be expected to pay more for the costs of state police if they do not have a municipal police department. If a municipality wants to have a municipal police department, then the residents of that municipality can pay more for it. Otherwise, they can choose to be protected by state police at no additional charge. Police departments should be funded MORE, not less! I would be happy to entertain new funding mechanisms to ensure that police have the resources they need.

7. Fracking and the Mariner East II pipeline are increasingly becoming controversial in Chester County. Has the state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) properly supervised the pipeline construction? Also, where do you stand on fracking? Should it be halted in the state?

The Department of Environmental Protections has been chronically underfunded for many years. The state needs to fully fund the DEP to ensure that it can fulfill its oversight authority and properly supervise any construction projects that have the potential to contaminate our environment. Perhaps some of the accidents that Chester County has recently experienced could have been prevented if the state government had fully funded the DEP. There are no mulligans with the environment; you only get one!

8. What changes, if any, do you support in terms of gun safety in Pennsylvania?

Background checks are very important in making sure that criminals and people with propensities toward violence do not get their hands on a firearm. We also need to update our laws to give law enforcement the tools to properly remove firearms from individuals who pose a clear and immediate risk to themselves or others. I lost a friend three years ago to gun violence because Pennsylvania lacked modern gun laws to help law enforcement disarm my friend’s violent and deranged neighbor. I have been distinguished by Moms Demand Action as a Gun Sense Candidate.

9. With the nomination and likely confirmation of Amy Coney Barrett to the US Supreme Court, it is possible that Roe v. Wade, the ruling that legalized abortion in the U.S., will be overturned, returning the issue to the states. Where do you stand and how would you vote if there was a bill banning abortion in Pennsylvania?

I am pro-life. Every human being is endowed with human rights, and those rights must be protected. That is the lens through which I will consider any legislation pertaining to abortion.

10. Are Pennsylvania’s protections for the LGBTQ community adequate? If not, what would you change?

No, Pennsylvania’s protections for the LGBTQ community are not adequate. If elected, I would support a bill to ban the use of the “gay panic defense” in courts of law in Pennsylvania. Pennsylvania is one of 37 states that allow a defendant accused of a violent crime to receive a lighter sentence by pleading that he or she committed the violent crime in a panicked response to finding out that the victim was gay (or a member of the LGBTQ community in some capacity). That’s unacceptable. Pennsylvania’s lack of a ban on the “gay panic defense” prevents equal justice under the law. LGBTQ Pennsylvanians deserve justice just as much as everyone else.

11. Is there an issue in Pennsylvania you feel does not get enough attention that you plan to highlight if elected?

Domestic violence doesn’t discriminate on your zip code, sexual orientation, financial status, or gender. It is often ignore by politicians, but not me. As our state representative, I was the #2 cosponsor of a bill that Governor Wolf signed into law that expedited the removal of firearms from convicted domestic abusers. That was a good first step, but I’d like to advocate for more protections for victims of domestic violence, like classifying strangulation as a felony offense.

12. Getting personal, can you tell us something about yourself that might surprise people (ie, unusual hobby or pet, brush with fame, etc.)?

I accidentally stepped on Nancy Pelosi’s toe one time in 2009. We were both in a crowd, and I didn’t even realize she was there. Being significantly taller than her, I didn’t realize she was next to me, and I mistakenly stepped on the toe of the Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives. She said “ouch,” and I apologized. Thankfully, her security detail forgave me for it, too!

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