Legislator Spotlight Senator — Rep. Steven Malagari

Rep. Steven Malagari (D, Montgomery County)

What made you decide to run for office?

I’ve always been deeply involved in my community, from my time in the Scouts when I was young, to seven years representing my neighborhood as a local elected official. When this state House seat became open in 2018, I was actively working in the district as a beverage wholesaler. This meant I already knew the district very well. On an average day I was speaking with dozens of business owners—owners of bars, restaurants, distributors—and hearing from their customers about their everyday issues. That rapport with my customers gave me good insight into what’s important to the people in this region and what they need. As their state representative I’m still actively working in the district and meeting with business owners and citizens, still listening to their everyday issues, but now I get to try to fix them.

What has been your favorite and least favorite things about being in the legislature?

Like many people in hospitality, I love meeting with people and helping to solve their problems, and that’s what public service is to me. So, my favorite thing has been the ability to meet many people from across the district, and the whole Commonwealth. From farmers and brewers to electronics manufacturers and tradespeople, the diversity of the district I represent is robust. My second favorite thing is being able to find common ground to work collaboratively with colleagues from both sides of the aisle on many challenges that the Commonwealth faces. My least favorite thing so far has been instances where I have not been able to help a constituent due to powers outside of my control.

You have previous experience in the alcohol industry—what was your involvement in the industry?

I started out working part-time for a local retail beer distributor. This was my first experience in witnessing the start of the changes in Pennsylvania’s Liquor Code toward modernization and adaptation to market pressures. Later, I worked as an on-premise sales representative for Gretz Beer Co. which then became Penn Beer Sales & Service. I worked in multiple capacities selling into bars, restaurants, taverns, clubs, gas stations, and grocery stores. I saw the implementation of Act 39 and the post-implementation effect on the market.

How has your previous experience impacted your role as a member of the House Liquor Control Committee?

My previous experience working in the industry has led to many colleagues looking to me as a resource for market implementation and effects on the industry. Understanding how producers, wholesalers, retailers, and consumers are impacted by changes in the Liquor Code is vital to making good and fair policy decisions.

Do you have any legislative priorities relating to the alcohol industry?

As I learn more about the other communities of the Commonwealth and their needs regarding the Liquor Code, my legislative priorities include continuing to provide convenience to consumers based on market demand but ensuring that responsibility remains our top priority.

What other legislative priorities do you have?

I have a deep desire to see improved transportation infrastructure, pedestrian and driver safety measures, and environmental protection efforts to name a few. Transportation is a huge issue here for businesses and residents alike. People need to be able to get to work, and businesses need employees who can get to work. Transportation deserts affect the food, beverage, and hospitality industry along with many others.

What advice would you give licensees in the state about how to engage with legislators?

Do not be afraid to discuss your business and the real effects that current or potential changes in law would have on your bottom line. You will not always have a legislator that understands the industry completely, but please make the attempt to help them understand. Reach out to your legislator and invite them to see your business and show them how involved you are in your local and regional economy. The only way we can make sound policy decisions is if business owners, employees, and consumers reach out and interact with their legislators, and vice versa! •