Legislator Spotlight Senator — Sen. John DiSanto

Sen. John DiSanto (R, Dauphin & Perry counties)

What made you want to run for office?

Over my lifetime in construction and real estate development I saw the growth in burdensome regulatory compliance and misguided tax policy that became a more significant factor in running the business and created higher barriers for entrepreneurs to take risks. After selling my business and having continued frustration with the inefficiency and ineffectiveness of government, I decided to do something about it. I didn’t want to look back 20 years from now and say I wish I would have tried to defend our personal liberties and economic freedom.

You have your own company and came from private industry; how does that make you different from other legislators?

My experience helps me understand better than most what the actual impacts are of the legislation that gets introduced in this building. Every extra dollar government taxes is money that doesn’t get spent on maintaining and growing a business, or voluntarily purchasing a good or service that an individual wants. Regulatory hoops and paperwork burdens are not only hidden tax increases, but they often don’t achieve intended outcomes and disincentive the American dream. Unlike many other legislators, I’m not here to make a career or earn a lifetime pension, which I’ve refused.

You have family that has come from the restaurant industry; what has that taught you about the hospitality industry in general?

I know the amount of time and money that owner-operators have invested into their businesses and the passion with which they work to exceed customer expectations while managing constant employee, supplier, competitor, legal, and regulatory issues. More than most industries, hospitality is really personal to the consumer, and it makes our lives more joyful and our communities inviting.

The Senate recently voted on a minimum wage bill for the first time in 13 years, can you explain why you supported the bill? (PRLA also supports the bill.)

I’ve consistently supported a reasonable minimum wage increase that reflects labor market realities and doesn’t disadvantage us compared to neighboring states. This legislation, as negotiated, provides a considerable increase, phased in over time, to more than 300,000 workers in a way that is mindful of the labor costs incurred by small, family-run businesses. As part of this bipartisan proposal, the Governor also agreed not to seek changes to overtime pay eligibility beyond the federal rules, which will help preserve the competitiveness of the hospitality industry.

What other legislative priorities do you have this session?

Senate Bill 637, which recently passed the Senate, is a bipartisan initiative I am leading to reform Pennsylvania’s occupational licensure laws and remove employment barriers for formerly incarcerated individuals. Nearly three million Pennsylvanians have a criminal record and with more than 95 percent of those incarcerated eventually being released, we must provide achievable pathways to work to reduce recidivism and promote economic opportunity.

My Senate Bill 5 prohibits costly government regulations from being imposed without approval by the General Assembly. This bill prevents career bureaucrats and regulators from expanding or changing the intent of the elected legislature. Senate Bill 119 requires two regulations be eliminated for every new one added. Regulatory reform is critical to holding our executive agencies accountable and improving our state’s economic climate.

I also continue to advocate for the elimination of school property taxes and their replacement with broader-based income and sales taxes. Too many Pennsylvanians are being priced out of their homes by this unfair tax, and I am glad to see a renewed focus on this issue in the legislature as we enter 2020.

Why is it important for the hospitality industry to engage in the legislative process? What advice do you have for individuals who are not sure how to engage with their legislator?

It’s important for everyone who believes in personal liberty and economic freedom to engage in the legislative process. There’s a strong tendency among legislators, executive officials, and bureaucrats to grow their power by increasing the size and scope of government, and citizens and businesses need to be a check and balance on government. Try to build a relationship with your legislators both inside and outside of the Capitol. Talk with them about the issues that are most important to you even when there’s not a critical vote looming. When PRLA does issue a legislative alert, definitely call or meet with your legislator and explain to them how the bill will impact your business, employees, and customers.

Where do you see the state of Pennsylvania in 10 years?

I really believe the next few years will determine the long-term future of our commonwealth. We currently face significant challenges with slow population growth, an aging demographic, and structural budgetary imbalances. If we can hold the line on spending growth in our budget, avoid increasing an already high tax burden on young families, ensure solid educational opportunities are available to our youth, and deliver on regulatory reform that encourages entrepreneurism, I am confident Pennsylvania will be an economic leader among the states. •