Legislator Spotlight Senator — Pat Stefano

(R, Fayette, Somerset & Westmoreland Counties)

What did you do before you ran for office?
I ran my family’s printing company, Stefano’s Printing. I am the third generation of my family to run our business and now I’m proud that my daughter has joined our company to make it four generations.

What made you want to run for office?
Every time the government interacted with my business it was always to my business’s detriment. I remember watching the NFIB’s legislative scorecards and seeing my area’s representatives voting against things that would help small businesses like mine. Instead of expecting other people to do what I think needed to be done, I decided to step away from my business and try to reform government so that it would be less of a burden to job creators.

As the new Chair of Law & Justice Committee, what things would you like to see the Committee do differently with the bills it considers?
First, I think we need to be taking issues one at a time. The tendency has been to lump everything into giant omnibus bills, which I think creates a way of legislating that shuts out transparency. I also think that we need more oversight of the two agencies the committee is tasked with overseeing, the Liquor Control Board and the Pennsylvania State Police. One is a significant revenue generator for the Commonwealth and the other is one of the most important expenditures we have. I think the legislature needs to be more engaged with overseeing how these agencies, and the executive branch as a whole, is spending the money that we appropriate to them.

What priorities do you have as Chairman of the Law & Justice Committee?
I think we have improved the convenience for our constituents in the way we deliver our alcohol. With the expanded sales locations of beer and wine, the private sector has proven itself more than capable of responsibly selling alcoholic products. I would like to expand upon that success to increase convenience for our residents while increase revenue to the Commonwealth. I also want to ensure our licensing regime is capitalizing on and not stifling economic development in our communities.

What is the one thing you would like to change about the general legislative process/Capitol?
One thing I find frustrating and would to change is how simple, non-controversial things can take months to move but certain issues that have a lot of special interest activity around them can be moved in a week or two, leaving little time for debate or consideration. I get worried when things move fast in Harrisburg because it feels like something is trying to be snuck through.

What other legislative priorities do you have outside of the purview of your committee?
I am very focused on infrastructure, which we often just think about roads and bridges but, especially in the rural areas I represent, it also means things like water, sewage, and broadband. I’ve had several bills dealing with blight, which affects much of my district. Finally, I’m here to reform state government. I think that it has gotten too big and way beyond its mission. We’ve made progress with things like pension reform and restraining the growth of government but we still have a ways to go.

What advice would you give to a business owner who wants to engage with their legislator and never has before? What should be their first step?
First, don’t be afraid. Business owners need to realize that they are the experts in their given field. If they don’t provide their input on a topic, then it will likely be given by someone else. Every special interest that may oppose them on a given issue is at the table telling their side of the story; business owners need to be telling their story, too.

A first step would be to invite your senator or representative to your business or go to one of their offices and introduce yourself and what you do. Offer to be a resource. If you have an area of state government that is hindering your business or when relevant legislation is being considered, be sure to reach out and schedule a meeting on it. We as legislators aren’t experts and can only make decisions based on the information that we have. •