PA. HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES 171st LEGISLATIVE DISTRICT

Name: Melody Fleck

Resides: Pine Grove Mills

Email: Hickoryhaven@hotmail.com

Campaign website: www.MelodyFleck.com

Age: 62

Party affiliation: Democrat

Occupation:     Retired attorney and State College Borough solicitor–30 years of legal experience in Centre County.

Education:     Pennsylvania State University and Temple University, Beasley School of Law

Family: One adult daughter

Clubs, organizations and special interests: Special interests: environmental stewardship and election finance reform. Organizations: past treasurer and executive committee of Moshannon, Group of Sierra Club and currently active on the Climate Change, Oil and Gas, and Political Endorsement Committees for Pa. Sierra Club and Chairperson of the Pa. Radiation Committee, volunteer lobbyist for Wolf-PAC.com, a bipartisan nationwide group that seeks to reverse Citizens United case and end the corrupting influence of money in politics. Interests: outdoor recreation, horseback riding, hiking, camping, history, politics, cutting edge renewable energy technologies, scientific studies pertaining to health, friends and family.

Have you ever run for or held an elected position?

No, except for volunteer organization elections. I’m campaigning for office this year because I believe in democracy. My opponent helped to gerrymander a “safe seat” for himself which has discouraged opponents from running against him. He has occupied the 171st seat for 20 years and has faced contested races only two times in the last nine elections.  Politics is the marketplace of ideas. Without choice and competition,  entrenched career politicians, like my opponent, are not held accountable by voters on Election Day. Vote for new ideas and fresh perspectives in Harrisburg.

If elected, what can be done to get the economy moving again and help unemployed Pennsylvanians get back to work?

The focus of encouraging job growth is often on luring out-of-state companies here, to show Pennsylvanians how it’s done. However, Pa. small businesses employ almost 50 percent of the private workforce and, along with farmers, universities and medical facilities, are the backbone of our economy. We need to support our native businesses by making development funds more available, facilitating export of  rural Pa. goods to international markets and continued funding for small business incubators and industrial development authorities.

New technology job training is also needed to  help unemployed Pennsylvanians become competitive.

Do you support natural gas extraction in Pennsylvania? Why or why not?

No. Ninety-five percent of climate scientists warn that fossil fuels are fueling climate change. Methane has 86 times more global warming potential, initially, than carbon dioxide, according to NASA. Peer-reviewed scientific studies link proximity to fracking with serious health issues. A swift transition to green energy technologies will make Pennsylvania part of the solution, protect communities and kids’ health and assure stable job growth. But politicians, corrupted by the deep-pocketed gas industry, stand in the way of progress.

My opponent received political donations from gas companies, according to CrowdPAC.  He consistently aligns with the gas industry, including fast-tracking unconstitutional, pro-industry legislation (Act 13) and delaying regulations.

Do you support labeling genetically modified foods? Why or why not?

Yes,  consumers have the right to know as much as possible about the food they’re buying and serving to their families. I also support place of origin labeling, including the farm, city, county, province and  state.  It is impossible for the consumer to obtain this information otherwise.

Is the state’s share of funding for public education adequate or should more money be given to local schools even if that means higher taxes?

No tax increases are needed.  When state funding for education is insufficient, as it was under Gov. Corbett’s administration, local property taxes increase and unfairly impact seniors and fixed income earners.  State funding has increased significantly in the last two state budgets so time will tell if the increases are enough. Fair funding formulas and programs to reduce costs with innovative ideas are needed. For example, HB 2388 would  require schools to use one of a number of approved prototypical school designs. This would reduce design costs, increase choices and assure energy efficiencies are built into schools.

How can we improve our education system in general and how can we make higher education more affordable?

Quality education puts students on the road to success and it’s the state’s constitutional duty to assure a thorough and efficient educational system. These are some of the ways to improve the system or reduce costs:  reducing class size, improving special education programs, increasing access to world languages, improving student and teacher assessments, providing secure school environments, updating the state’s charter school law, encouraging increased parent-teacher partnerships, taking advantage of online learning opportunities and strengthening families and communities, as too often societal issues are reflected as school issues.

College education could be made more affordable by increased work-study opportunities, prohibiting usurious interest rates on student loans,  reuse of expensive textbooks, smarter purchasing practices, better cost management and counseling so students choose a major early and graduate faster.

 

Name: Kerry A. Benninghoff

Resides: Bellefonte

Email: kbenninghoff171@gmail.com

Age: 54

Party affiliation: Republican

Occupation/work history: Current state legislator and elected member of the Republican Leadership Team. Former House Majority Finance and State Government Chairman. Former two-term elected county coroner, 12-year hospital employee in both clinical and managerial. Former home builder and carpenter.

Education:  State College Area High School; Penn State University 1980-1981. Pa. certified county coroner.

Family: Father of five children, two grandchildren.

Clubs, organizations, special interests: Faith United Church Sunday school teacher, Bellefonte Kiwanis Club, Elks Club, member Centre Home Care Hospice Public Advisory Board.

Interests include: Fishing, hunting, remodeling, gardening and serving my church.

Have you ever run for or held an elected position?

Yes, Centre County Coroner 1991, 1995; Current position 1996 to present.

If elected/re-elected, what can be done to get the economy moving again and help unemployed Pennsylvanians get back to work?

Continue to rebuild our state’s roads, bridges, railroads and airports to safely move people and the tremendous products produced here in Pennsylvania.

Continue to reduce onerous business tax and regulations that restrict businesses to grow and create more jobs.

Build out our natural gas line infrastructure for both commercial and residential properties for cleaner domestic energy.

Do you support natural gas extraction in Pennsylvania? Why or why not?

Yes, natural gas has and will continue to provide the most clean reliable and environmentally-friendly energy to power businesses, create good paying jobs and energy for our homes. In the first four years of their work the industry has hired tens of thousands of Pennsylvania workers, rebuilt many of our undersized damaged rural roads while paying out $2 billion in Pennsylvania taxes.

Do you support labeling genetically modified foods? Why or why not?

Yes. I support letting consumers know what they are purchasing and consuming. We need to provide transparent disclosure of all ingredients in our foods as a basic consumer right. GMOs have allowed the successful farmers of the USA to produce safe, insect and disease resistant food that helps feed many people all over the world. Most of the food and seed we use is GMO.

Is the state’s share of funding for public education adequate, or should more money be given to local schools even if that means higher taxes?

The state currently spends 40 percent of the entire budget on public education. Last year we passed a new Basic Fair Funding Formula to better address fast growing school districts, areas of high poverty, local tax base and capacity to pay. The commonwealth paid over 50 percent of school funding to approximately 50 percent of our school districts. The state also pays 50 percent of school employee retirement and subsidizes their Social Security payments as well as public school busing. This is in addition to the $14 billion paid by local property taxpayers. We need to strike a balance with education spending and taxpayer ability to pay.

How can we improve our education system in general and how can we make higher education more affordable?

Need to allow teachers to focus on teaching reading, writing, computer skills and arithmetic and less on mandated state testing. Give maximum flexibility for course curriculum to the local school boards.

Higher education needs to require college to graduate students of four-year degrees in four years or less. Lobby the federal government to reduce student loan interest rates. Need to ensure college math requirements are directly correlated to a student major. Reduce the number of required elective courses by inviting elective materials into main required courses.