It is hard to imagine what our lives were like before COVID. As we reflect on a year where the lows seemed to have outweighed the highs, and some key votes didn’t go the way we believed they should have, we would be remiss not to highlight those that championed the industry and stood with us when times were hard.
House Majority Leader, Kerry Benninghoff (R—Centre)
He took over the House Majority Leader post in the middle of legislative session and in the middle of the COVID crisis—not an easy feat for anyone. Within hours of the Senate passing HB 2513 to re-open our industry, Rep. Benninghoff ensured the bill would run immediately in the House. When the Governor vetoed the bill and political pressure would have made it easier to not run an override vote until after the election—Rep. Benninghoff ensured the veto override was done as soon as possible when we would have the best chance of success. Bills such as liability protection moved swiftly through the legislature, even though the Governor didn’t agree with their intent. While some legislators lacked “profiles in courage,” Leader Benninghoff stayed committed to helping our industry and continues to stay committed as we begin a new session.
Senator Pat Stefano (R—Fayette)
Upon taking over as Senate Law & Justice Chair in 2019, Sen. Stefano focused on passing meaningful legislation that is well thought out. When the COVID crisis began, he stepped up to the plate several times. Mixed drinks to go and HB 2513 would not have gotten across the finish line without his action moving bills quickly and ensuring bi-partisan support. He has been a vocal advocate regarding the impact mitigation has had on our industry and his staff and him regularly check-in with PRLA to see “what needs to be done next.”
Rep. Kurt Masser (R—Northumberland)
If you have read PRLA’s daily updates this year or follow our social media, you have probably seen a speech or two from Rep. Kurt Masser, the only legislator that actually owns and operates restaurants in Pennsylvania. His role in the legislature and actual experience of the COVID crisis is what led to mixed drinks to go, HB 2513, and a last-ditch effort to try and preserve some of the CARES funding to be used for the industry. So many legislators hear from you about the trials of the last year, but Rep. Masser has experienced it and therefore became a strong advocate over the last 12 months.
Senator Lisa Boscola (D—Northampton)
You have likely seen Sen. Boscola on our list of legislative champions in the past and that is because she doesn’t let politics get between what she thinks is right. She has been very clear that the treatment of our industry by the Wolf Administration in the last year was not right. Sen. Boscola was one of the first legislators to introduce a broad package of recovery bills and regularly pushes back on extreme mitigation efforts on behalf of the restaurants in her district. Senator Boscola is one of those legislators that exemplify what we believe legislating should be—doing what is right, not what you are told to do by someone else.
House Republican Bucks County Delegation
We can’t just choose one legislator from Bucks County to be a champion of the industry because every single one of them have stood up for this industry, put up tough votes, and attended every single rally to show they were a united group for us. From Rep. Craig Staats championing HB 1617, one of PRLA’s alcohol priorities, to Rep. Frank Farry giving sound advice to the industry on how to engage during the crisis—they stood with us.
House Democrats—HB 2513 Supporters
We have lost a few tough battles over the course of COVID, but none stung worse than not overriding the Governor’s veto of HB 2513, which would have returned the industry to some sort of normalcy. While some legislators flipped their votes, there were even more Democrats that stayed firm in their support. We thank them for rising above the fray and being there for us: Reps. Bizarro (Erie), Burns (Cambria), Carroll (Luzerne), Conklin (Centre), Delloso (Delaware), Harkins (Erie), Kim (Dauphin), Kortz (Allegheny), Kosierowski (Lackawanna), Kulik (Allegheny), Longietti (Mercer), Markosek (Allegheny), Matzie (Beaver), McNeill (Lehigh), Merski (Erie), Mullery (Luzerne), Mullins (Lackawanna), O’Mara (Delware), Petrarca (Westmoreland), Readshaw (Allegheny), Sainato (Lawrence), Sappey (Chester), Snyder (Greene), and Ullman (Bucks).
Retirees of Note
Senator Joe Scarnati (R—Jefferson)
Sen. Scarnati, a former restaurant owner, was a constant champion of PRLA’s legislative priorities over the length of his time in the Senate. From tipped wage to liquor laws and taxes, he was a voice of reason and a leader when it came to legislation that would impact the industry.
Senator Pam Iovino (D—Allegheny)
While she only was the state Senator for the 37th District for 1.5 years, Sen. Iovino championed a recovery package for the industry while being a strong supporter of HB 2513 on behalf of businesses in her district.
Rep. Steve Barrar (R—Delaware)
Rep. Barrar had nearly perfect attendance at every one of PRLA’s roundtables and meetings. Over the course of his time in office, he was always a “yes” for anything that helped the industry. He will be missed but has earned a much-deserved retirement.