In the race for the Pennsylvania State Senate seat in the 13th District, former Lancaster County commissioner Scott Martin is seeking a second term against Lancaster City Councilwoman Janet Diaz.
Senator Martin and Councilwoman Diaz filled out questionnaires supplied to them by FOX43 about their platforms:
1. Why do you want to represent the PA Senate 13th District?
SENATOR MARTIN: I am running to continue my record of bipartisan, effective service to the people of Lancaster County. In just my first term, I have brought together Republicans and Democrats to pass 19 new bills into law, including: increased support for Pediatric Cancer research; creation of the Safe2Say Program that helps keep kids safe at school; helping volunteer fire companies; increasing DUI penalties for repeat offenders who cause the death of another; and much more. I have also focused on the “big” issues: protecting taxpayers by bringing much-needed fiscal discipline to Harrisburg; supporting education (basic, career & technical, and higher ed), working to improve our healthcare system so it is more affordable and accessible; and, this year, responsibly addressing COVID-19. I am proud that in each of these areas I have achieved results. We have delivered record funding for education – so much so that we helped ensure two years of no tuition increases at state-owned universities. We have passed responsible budgets that focus on priorities without raising taxes. And when COVID-19 struck, we delivered emergency funding to healthcare providers and frontline workers for needed supplies (like PPE), vital support for nursing and long-term care facilities, and expanded testing across the state.
COUNCILWOMAN DIAZ: I’m running because Lancaster County is worth fighting for. I'm running because 22,000 children and 50,000 adults in Lancaster County don't have access to healthcare — and those were the numbers before COVID-19. With 18 years of experience in the healthcare industry, I have seen the system inside and out. I know how it works and how hardworking Pennsylvanians are being left behind.
As a member of Lancaster City Council, I’m an advocate for our community. I held the line on property taxes and voted for common sense police reforms, including hiring a social worker in the police department, that will make sure our officers have every resource they need to keep our communities safe.
I know what it’s like to navigate a system that is built for the powerful, and not for the working families in our communities. When my family and I first came to Lancaster, my mom found work at minimum wage and we struggled as a result. Lancaster County deserves a State Senator who understands the challenges working families face every day.
Throughout my entire life, I have been a fighter and I’m ready to fight for you.
2. What area of public policy you are most passionate about and why?
SENATOR MARTIN: From a personal standpoint, I am deeply committed to addressing issues surrounding pediatric cancer. When I began my service in the State Senate, I was approached by a local family whose child was suffering from this horrible disease asking me for help. Since then, I have had the opportunity to meet, talk with, celebrate with, and, tragically, mourn with many more families impacted by this disease. As a father, these experiences affect me deeply. I am proud to report that – working together with these families and in a bipartisan manner in Harrisburg – we have had successes. Two pieces of legislation I authored – one to help drive additional funding to pediatric cancer research and a second to help pediatric cancer patients stay better connected with their schools, classmates and friends – have both been passed into law and we are continuing to work on other issues as well. There are other public policy areas I care about deeply, such as fiscal responsibility, improving healthcare, and strengthening our state’s education system, but none affect me as personally as this one.
COUNCILWOMAN DIAZ: Healthcare. As I mentioned previously, I have experience and expertise in the healthcare industry. Before making the decision to run for this position, I knocked on doors throughout the district to hear what voters are most concerned about. The answer was overwhelmingly clear - healthcare.
Pennsylvanians are struggling to make ends meet. For example, one family I met lives in Strasburg. The mother dropped her insurance because it was too expensive. The father suffers from a work-related injury and went on disability. The family lost coverage and their bills are piling up. We need to provide affordable options to healthcare coverage so nobody falls behind because they’re seeking care.
3. Name three goals you wish to accomplish in the next term if elected? SENATOR MARTIN: Safely and responsibly restart our economy and return life to normal from the coronavirus. Ensure fiscal solvency and responsibility in state government without further burdening taxpayers. Continue to improve and reform our education system at every level to provide children with a quality education that prepares them for success.
COUNCILWOMAN DIAZ: Ensuring access to quality and affordable healthcare, providing livable wages, supporting our farmers.
4. What is the biggest challenge facing Pennsylvanians in the next couple years?
SENATOR MARTIN: The biggest challenge facing Pennsylvania in the next couple years will be recovering from the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and the impact it has had on our economy, the state budget and, most importantly, the well-being of our citizens. Our first step in meeting this challenge must be safely restarting our economy while following appropriate health guidelines. Once we get our economy moving and put people back to work, many of the fiscal challenges we face will begin to subside and the state will have the revenue necessary to provide help where it is most needed.
COUNCILWOMAN DIAZ: Enhancing state protections to ensure that everyone has access to high quality, affordable health care. Thousands of residents in Lancaster County lack coverage and the price of care is increasing. We need to end surprise medical billing, cap prices on prescription drugs, and ensure coverage for pre-existing conditions.
5. COVID-19 will continue to be a part of our lives in 2021 and beyond. What should Pennsylvania’s top priorities be as it relates to the pandemic?
SENATOR MARTIN: I believe there are two key steps that must be taken. First, we must be using actual data in a transparent manner to make decisions that allow a safe return to a more normal life; this will improve the mental and physical health of Pennsylvanians. Second, we must be safely and responsibly restart our economy while following appropriate health guidelines as relieving the financial stress on working people, struggling small business and even the state will help improve the overall quality of life of our population. While the Governor took initial steps that many understood due to the unknown nature of the virus, recent events in federal court prove that – unfortunately – much of what we were told about “data driven decisions” in the ensuing months was simply untrue. Pennsylvania is too diverse for one-size-fits-all solutions; different areas are impacted differently by the virus. We must safely restart wherever possible, provide help to vulnerable populations, and – especially – build a coalition of residents, legislators, the medical community, the small business community, and others to make transparent decisions.
COUNCILWOMAN DIAZ: While we are still responding to the pandemic, we must ensure our healthcare system is adequately supported - something that would’ve been made easier if my opponent would have approved a county department of health when he was a County Commissioner.
For businesses and farmers, we must make grant programs and resources available and accessible so they can recover as we plan to reopen safely. On Lancaster City Council, I made economic development funding available to businesses impacted by COVID-19.
We must ensure all our frontline workers are protected and taken care of. This includes having adequate stock of PPE, paid sick leave, and livable wages. Our frontline workers are nurses and public safety professionals, but also include food service workers and teachers.
6. Dr. Deborah Birx of the White House’s Coronavirus Task Force praised Pennsylvania for how it has handled the COVID-19 pandemic. How would you assess the commonwealth’s response?
SENATOR MARTIN: In the beginning of the pandemic, PA took aggressive initial steps due to the unknown nature of the coronavirus. There are still things from that response that we need to continue: following health and safety guidelines, sanitizing, etc. Unfortunately, there are also many examples of how the process was flawed and it is due to what I believe were the biggest mistakes: a lack of transparency, a lack of collaboration, and making COVID-19 a priority at the expense of other health conditions. One example was the Administration’s decision to force nursing homes and long-term care facilities to admit COVID-19 patients. The results of that decision – made without transparency to the public when it was happening – were disastrous and undisputed. If county emergency management personnel were more involved in the decision making, this could have been avoided and our nursing home residents better protected. Another example was the secretive waiver system for businesses that sowed confusion and anger, picked winners and losers, and hurt the small businesses that are the engine of our economy and the largest employer of our citizens. Too often, one business was allowed to open while another wasn’t – even though both offered identical goods and services. For example, big box stores were allowed to open but a small business on Main Street was not – even though each could follow CDC and Health Department guidelines. The shutdown of elective procedures in hospitals and healthcare systems was another critical mistake that can’t yet be fully comprehended. Elective procedures like children getting their pediatric cancer screenings were stopped, individuals who needed them could not receive cardiac tests when needed, diabetes diagnoses and countless other medically necessary procedures were stopped. We can never put one health emergency at the forefront while stopping other needed treatment. Today, there are still citizens trying to reschedule desperately needed surgeries that they were prohibited from having in the spring. Finally, the stopping of other health-related procedures dramatically impacted the financial solvency of our healthcare systems, which also negatively affects care. A final example was that while other states were publicly posting information on how they made decisions and the data behind them, Pennsylvania did not. In fact, recent federal court documents show that decisions were not made based on the guidelines the public was told they were. I would have approached the issue differently – and would recommend we do this moving forward – by building a coalition of legislators from both parties as well as affected residents, the small business community, hospitals and healthcare providers, education leaders and others from across the state to make decisions with more information, more transparency, and greater public trust.
COUNCILWOMAN DIAZ: I think Governor Wolf did a good job following CDC guidelines and making hard choices in order to minimize spread of the virus. He and Dr. Levine kept our safety in mind. Closing schools and businesses was a difficult choice, but that saved lives.
I think that resources for small businesses could have been more transparent. A lot of these resources and grants were not made as accessible to small businesses, especially minority-owned businesses. I voted to make economic development resources available to small businesses in Lancaster that were affected by COVID-19. We need to make sure that everyone is taken care of.
7. What needs to be done in order to improve Pennsylvania’s economy?
SENATOR MARTIN: The first step is that we need to restart our economy safely and responsibly by allowing businesses to return to operations while following health and safety guidelines. Currently, too many of our industries are dealing with orders from that Governor created, as we now know, without data and that will continue to force permanent closures, especially as the weather gets colder and outdoor spaces cannot be used. Until we have an economy that is allowed to operate, we cannot improve our economy. Once that occurs, we must make certain that government is not standing in the way of economic growth with a tax and regulatory system that drives employers away. As the nation emerges from the coronavirus pandemic, there will be increased competition among states to attract employers and entrepreneurs. Pennsylvania cannot lose that competition.
COUNCILWOMAN DIAZ: We must reevaluate our tax structure. I support the Fair Share Tax plan that would bring an additional $2.2 billion in new revenue from finally assessing an equitable tax on the super rich and their amassed wealth while 82% of Pennsylvanians would see their taxes go down or see no change. Social Security benefits, pensions, and 401k distributions would not be taxed. Family-owned and other small businesses benefit from reporting their income as wages rather than business profits.
In Lancaster County, we have strong agriculture and manufacturing industries and we must do more to support our farmers. I support Senator Judy Schwank’s Hemp Industrial Act that would expand opportunities to grow hemp and produce hemp products in Lancaster County
8. Social unrest has played out in front of us as citizens protest the killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and other Black men and women. What changes are needed to state laws as it relates to criminal justice reform?
SENATOR MARTIN: In July of this year, Pennsylvania was one of the first, if not the first, state to pass significant reform bills into law, and I was proud to be part of the bipartisan group that accomplished it. These new laws include improved training, improved hiring practices, support for mental health, and other reforms. I was also proud to support the bipartisan “Clean Slate” law to help those who have served their time to gainfully re-enter society which has a positive impact on reducing recidivism rates. There are no reasonable members of our community – including members of law enforcement – who are not willing to look at ways to make things better. That is something we can and should do, and I will always support. That said, social unrest that becomes violent or destructive and efforts like Defund The Police that seek to weaken law enforcement are the incorrect ways to improve the situation, build consensus or keep communities safe. We must continue to support law enforcement while also working to make it better.
COUNCILWOMAN DIAZ: I come from a family of law enforcement. My brother, uncles, and cousins are police officers. At the same time as a woman of color, I know what it feels like to be unfairly targeted by the police.
We must ensure that police officers have the resources to adequately respond to the needs of their communities. Because of my family, I know the stress police officers face on the job. They are responding to situations that are best served by behavior health professionals. As a member of Lancaster City Council, I supported hiring a police department social worker, de-escalation training, and body cameras.
9. What changes would you make to Pennsylvania’s unemployment compensation system?
SENATOR MARTIN: Unfortunately, our offices continue to be inundated with resident complaints over the effectiveness and efficiency of the UC system. What is most distressing about that is the fact that these problems have been known for some time and are a result of outdated technology used by the Department of Labor. As Senator, several years ago, I joined with a bipartisan group of legislators to provide special funding to be used specifically for the purpose of upgrading this technology. Had that happened – and there is still no answer as to why the Administration did not do what it was supposed to – many of the problems brought forth during the pandemic would have been avoided. I believe we can improve the vast majority of problems if the Administration and the Department of Labor fix their systems the way they were supposed to have done years ago.
COUNCILWOMAN DIAZ: COVID-19 put an intense strain on our unemployment compensation system. Pennsylvanians who lost their jobs and livelihoods relied on unemployment insurance to meet their expenses and some got lost in the cracks. We need to modernize technologies and invest more in language access so we are prepared to respond when our community is in crisis.
10. Are you confident in the security and results of this election?
SENATOR MARTIN: Though it will be challenging due to the introduction of vote by mail (and the incredibly large number of voters taking part in that process due to the pandemic), I believe that our county Boards of Election can manage the process. What must happen in every county however is the fastest, accurate count possible and complete transparency in how the process is working and progressing. If results drag on too long, or the public feels as if they are being kept in the dark, it will sow voter distrust.\
COUNCILWOMAN DIAZ: Yes. I trust the state and county officials who have been administering our elections for years. I trust the US Postal Service. There has been no evidence of fraud and the only threats come from the President’s untrue allegations. It is very unfortunate that the President continues to attack the US Postal Service. This affects not only our elections system but threatens many Pennsylvanians who rely on the Postal Service to deliver medications or Social Security benefits. Voting is a civic right and we must make it easier to vote, not harder.