What made you want to run for office?
I have always had an interest in history, social studies, and political science. I was intrigued by the political process but also frustrated with the process, so I wanted to make a difference. I was working in the trucking industry and dealing with government regulations that sometimes made no sense at all. My first step into the public service arena was to serve on the planning committee for Lower Towamensing Township and then I served as the chairman for the county GOP. I decided to run for the House seat to make a positive difference in my community and the state.
You are the sponsor of legislation that would require online home sharing companies to remit information and pay correct taxes on listings—why is this important?
The legislation was proposed to ensure a fair and level playing field for all businesses. It is not fair that bed and breakfast establishments or hotels that are online not pay the same taxes as other rental businesses. If a tax is owed, it should be collected. This is not a tax increase, it is just paying a tax that is owed. The money derived from this tax is used for tourism promotion at the local level and benefits anyone whose business is renting vacation properties.
Tourism is a big industry in the area you represent. Over the years, the statewide tourism promotion line-item continues to be underfunded—how does that impact communities like the one you serve?
It is important that funds are provided to promote what we have to offer in the Commonwealth. In Carbon County, we feature a paradise for outdoor activities, including three ski resorts, white water rafting, water parks, biking and hiking trails, as well as historic downtown Jim Thorpe and coal mine tours. The state must continue to provide dollars for advertising the assets Pennsylvania has to offer to bring more revenue into the local communities that would in turn benefit the entire state.
There seems to be a sense of gridlock in the legislature lately. Why do you think that is the case?
Our foundation is based on limited government but when we ask the government to do more, the system begins to break down. It is hard to get people from diverse areas with their own special needs and problems to work together for the common good. Most people in the legislature are here for the right reasons but we all must be willing to compromise in some instances. We need to work on creating economic growth with a broader tax base.
What other legislative priorities do you have outside of HB 1810?
I have introduced legislation to help combat the opioid crisis and have long supported legislation to reform property tax to relieve the burden on residents. An important priority is to streamline processes to help small businesses grow, which is something HB 1810 will provide. With tourism being such an important part of Carbon County, I focus on any legislation that will benefit the residents of the 122nd Legislative District. My job is to work hard for the citizens of Carbon County and the Commonwealth.
If you could change one thing in how the legislature is currently run, what would you change?
The system isn’t perfect but it is the best form of government in the world. We need to improve on our system of checks and balances. I get frustrated by the time it takes to get things done. Most legislators are here for the right reasons, but we need to learn to work together to accomplish what needs to be done. We all want to do the right thing for our districts. We don’t get to choose who we work with, but we do choose how we get along when dealing with legislation that affects all of us.
What advice do you have for business owners, managers, and employees in the hospitality industry who want to engage with their legislators? How can they make their voices heard?
One thing that they can do is become involved with the Pennsylvania Restaurant and Lodging Association.
I am not a fan of negative social media posts—I prefer to engage in conversation. If you have a question or concern communicate it to me. I love to talk with people. If we have a difference of opinion, let’s talk and see if we can find common ground. I hold outreach programs, expos, town halls, and go door-to-door in the community. It doesn’t matter if you are a Republican or Democrat, if something is good for the 122nd Legislative District or the Commonwealth, let’s see what we need to do together to make it happen. •
Representative Doyle Heffley
(R, Carbon County)