Mara Auditorium Hosts Pennsylvania State House Debate

By Angelina Stambouli, Staff Writer 

On October 19, Mara Auditorium hosted the Pennsylvania State House debate and Candidates Forum for State Representative of the 91st Legislative District for the candidates to discuss their plans and ideals for Adams County. 

The event was both presented and sponsored by Gettysburg Connection, sponsored by the Political Science Department, the Public Policy Program, and the Eisenhower Institute. Alex Hayes of the Gettysburg Connection moderated the event and led the questions. 

The running candidates included Republican incumbent Dan Moul, Democrat Marty Qually, and Libertarian Neil Belliveau. 

Introductions began with Libertarian Candidate Neil Belliveau, who explained his candidacy due to Pennyslvanians’ increased taxes, uncontrolled spending, and the expanding role of government. Belliveau touched on increased inflation, emphasizing a prime concern of  Pennsylvania being one of ten states under full-time legislature yet “one of the least productive.” He concluded his statements with “a fight to cut wasteful spending” and to “hold the line up against taxes.” 

Democrat Marty Qually opened next, detailing his upbringing in the Gettysburg community and feeling “honored to serve as county commissioner.” Qually loves serving, but said that “we need Harrisburg to do better.” He detailed partisan division in recent years and discussed the incumbent’s proposal to “diminish the rights of women,” by voting to remove the right to choose. Qually also touched on his opponent’s support of the amendment that changes the voting age from 18 to 21 years old. Lastly, he mentioned his opponent’s co-sponsoring a resolution that declared the 2020 Presidential Election invalid. 

Qually summarized, “don’t think about your party or your “team,” when you go to vote this year. Think about your community.”

Speaking next, Republican Dan Moul mentioned he was “hoping to keep it a little more civil than just be juggling flaming chainsaws,” but shifted topics. He raised attention toward his sixteen years in service and weekly paper appearances. He felt disappointed with two letters sent to the paper’s editor: one from Steve Niebler, a former liberal colleague he worked alongside in Senior Affairs from the Adams County Office of Aging, but said that “…he threw me under the bus.” Moul felt that it was okay of his colleague to support the opponent, but said “you don’t need to trash me to do it.” Secondly, Moul mentioned Gettysburg Connection Author Leon Reed’s article criticizing his term. Closing his introduction, Moul shared his Chairman of Agriculture status. 

Moderator Alex Hayes introduced the first question of the night:

Two thirds of the roads of Pennsylvania are maintained by townships. The majority of revenue is from the liquid fuels tax. Because of better gas mileage, that fund is declining.  

Do you support dedicative funding of roads by adding a tax or fee on electronic charging stations or increasing rental car fee? 

Qually was the first candidate to respond, saying, “one of the fundamental laws of fuel tax are that you have hybrid or electric cars, with people working remotely it is becoming a challenge.” 

He believes it helps if people pay for the construction of roads or bridges if they are using them and causing an impact. Qually also wants local authority and formulas to be worked on, that way he believes local money can stay locally rather than be sent to the cities.

Moul responded that he had helped send a bill to the Senate proposing an increased registration fee in Pennsylvania on hybrid and all-electric vehicles two years ago, but that it stalled in the Senate. 

He said, “it may come as a shock to most of you, but I actually drive an electric vehicle.”

Moul agrees that the future must be considered in terms of hybrid and electric vehicles. 

He said, “not necessarily for fossil fuels, but it’s just the smart way to go—that’s why I bought one.” 

With twice as many vehicles now on roads but using the same amount of fuel twenty years ago, Moul mentioned voting for the last fuel tax increase. 

He concluded his response with,“I can tell you to raise fuel taxes again today, you’d have a hard time getting that vote to go through on either side of the aisle in Harrisburg.” 

Belliveau spoke of Pennsylvania having one of the highest gas taxes in the country, wondering where all of the money is allocated. He mentioned 40% of taxes being siphoned off to state police and agencies, yet the Pennsylvania Constitution states the money is to be directed toward road and bridge maintenance. 

If the money was utilized per PA’s constitution, Belliveau said “we wouldn’t have as many problems with the roads as we have now.” 

He supports tolling and fixing road maintenance with said tolling money, and getting spending under control that is for the gas tax in order to fund lower end rural roads.

Property taxes are a major stressor for many home-owners. The school property tax is the largest of the three property taxes, the others being the county municipality. Many school superintendents and directors claim their hands are tied because of the state mandates and limited funding. Do you believe this is true, and if so, how can the states work with local governments to provide property tax relief? 

The second question began with Moul’s response. He spoke of the property tax relief fund in Pennsylvania being used to help senior citizens possessing lower incomes, excluding those making over $100K annually. His staff handles thresholds dealing with property tax rent rebate  programs in their office, adding that the state adds money into property tax relief funds. Moul thinks the Commonwealth should pay school property taxes. In terms of getting the money to cover the taxes, he said their budget is about forty billion dollars, yet “what we put into education is about fifteen. So, about  ⅓ of every dollar coming into the Commonwealth Pennsylvania right now is going into education.” 

He closed by asking where Adams County would get more money to put into the property tax relief, saying he is “all for it, just tell me where to get the money.” 

Belliveau claims the results are not improving and plans on finding out where student funding money is going and how it is being spent. Belliveau would prioritize lowering education costs with a market-based approach, ensuring money goes to students, and allowing “not just government-based schools, but private schools, public schools, and charter schools” to allow competition and ultimately lower education prices.  

Qually responded that school “funding coming in is only a part of the problem” and that failed policies precede at every level of government. Under federal government, he mentioned mandates on special education passed down to states. Secondly, the state level faces expensive standardized testing, cyber school, and charter school. While he believes those are good schools at times, the rules are disadvantages to the schools and create more expenses for the same job.

He believes that it is possible to freeze school property taxes for senior-citizens. While the federal government and Harrisburg are reticent to do it, Qually prefers to give local government more control. 

Concluding, Qually said “I believe county commissioners can work with school districts to develop revenue streams locally that can make more sense than property taxes,” and that a one-size-fits-all approach to Pennsylvania cannot work.

The Covid-19 pandemic raised the series of questions regarding the rights of the states of private businesses to impose medical requirements on the public. What will your approach to policy-making be related to these issues?

Belliveau thought that COVID-19 lockdowns were one of the greatest human tragedies of our lifetime due to the effects it had on children in loss of learning and weight gain, saying that it was “a total disaster.” He believes local government, businesses, and individuals have the power to make the best choice as possible on their own. 

Qually hopes that “we never have to go through that again, making those decisions of balancing personal responsibility and public safety is a massive challenge for elected officials.”

He added that the top priority of officials is the health and safety of residents. When residents are dying, officials must come up with a resolution. Qually does not believe the government or legislature were ready to handle a pandemic. Ultimately, he believes that “a large part of this is personal responsibility” in terms of individual health choices while keeping family, friends and co-workers safe. Qually said not everyone in the community believed in science, and that people need to get to a point of believing in specialists after science grew politicized.

Moul thought the pandemic was “handled about as wrong as anything could possibly be handled.” When elected officials are not scientists, he believes they should not rule medical decisions. Agreeing with his opponent, Moul said people should be held responsible for themselves, gather as much information as possible, and not allow a governor to lock down individuals. Moul concluded that the lesson to learn is to “let doctors and the experts guide you through this, not politicians.” He also believes children still suffer academically as a result. 

Do you think the 2020 Presidential Election was free and fair?

The question’s first response came from Qually with three short words. 

He said, “Yes, I do.”

Moul said there is no way to prove it, but explained seeing government footage of people going to drop-boxes in early morning hours with “handfuls of ballots and shoving them in,” which Moul said violates the Constitution’s election code. 

He said no one is ever going to know if the 2020 election was won by Donald Trump or Joe Biden, but that he “personally has to take it for what it is, live through it, and get through it.”

While he believes that the election was fair for the most part, Belliveau said there is always shady activities going on after elections between arrests and charges. He then said “what isn’t fair is the way Republicans and Democrats treat third-party candidates and push them off the ballot….” Belliveau referred to his party of Libertarians, as well as the Green Party, Keystones, and other third-parties. 

“What do you think your greatest accomplishment is in your career or public service life?”

Moul is proud to have helped a woman adopt her granddaughter out of foster care. While Vice Chair of Children Youth, Moul made a call to “threaten the county’s Youth Agency” and took the woman to the courthouse, reuniting her and the child. 

Belliveau emphasized his “biggest concern is everyone’s freedom, not [his] freedom, everyone’s freedom,” which is the reason he started the Adams County Libertarian Party. 

Qually mentioned the challenge of both county commissioner and state legislator, [that] there’s a lot going on all the time,” he said, “you don’t stop to figure out where you’re supposed to take credit or what your accomplishments were. You’re moving from issue to issue to issue.” 

If he had to choose, Qually said serving at the Mercy House would be one of his proudest accomplishments thus far.

A proposed amendment to the Pennsylvania Constitution states Pennsylvanians have no rights to an abortion, no exceptions. How would you vote on this issue? 

Answering first, Moul corrected Moderator Alex Hayes, stating  “an amendment adding a new Section 30 to Article 1 providing that the Constitution does not grant a right to a taxpayer-funeded abortion, or any other right relating to abortion.” 

Moul said this spring, the amendment codifies what has already been done in Pennsylvania. He said taxpayers do not pay for an abortion unless it “jeopardizes the health of the mother or child in utero.” Moul claimed the amendment could pass today and nothing would change. 

Belliveau believes that abortion is a decision lying between patient and doctor, that “the government has no business legislating people’s bodies.”  

While believing a lot of people hold common ground on abortion, Bellieveau said it is a politicized issue. He does not think abortion should be promoted or subsidized by the government. 

Lastly, Qually opened with saying he will “never vote for a bill, resolution, or a memo of anything that takes this right away from women.” 

He said the amendment is the “tip of the sphere,” crafted to start the process to completely rid Roe V. Wade and take the choice away from a woman.  

What are your thoughts on the state’s current Right-To-Know Law, and do you believe that changes should be made?

Qually said while the law is government-focused, the public holds the right to know how decisions are made. As for the county level, their staff includes small municipalities who do not have the staff to deal with the consequences of the Right-To-Know Law. He believes in other ways to acquire transparency aside from the Right-To-Know Law. 

Moul mentioned the Right-To-Know was passed with the intention of citizens exercising the right to know what goes on in their government in relation to transparency, but that the law needs adjustmenting to prevent fishing. 

Finally, Belliveau responded that “nothing should be done in the dark of night,” that no decision is to be done hidden or in secrecy, but is not entirely familiar with the extent of the Right-To-Know Law. 

What are your views on making public dollars eligible to fund students’ private education? 

Belliveau believes money should follow the student and monopolies on government schools should be corrected. He said education will be improved overall when public dollars follow any and all students in their education.

Disagreeing, Qually thinks public dollars should stay with public education, speaking “as someone who went to Catholic school his entire life.” 

Qually argued that public education must be strengthened. To siphon money off of public education for private education, people with the least money are going to suffer the most. He said to continue siphoning money out of schools, the less likely it is to build a strong local economy. 

Next, Moul referred to the topic as “school-choice.” He feels there needs to be another way to allow children to obtain the education their parents want them to have. 

Many industrial solar farms are being proposed for South Central Pennsylvania. What steps, if any, can legislature take to ensure municipalities don’t have the burden of removing the materials, including HAZMAT, if they are abandoned in worse operations?  

Moul identified the question as a municipal issue. He mentioned the Commonwealth not telling municipalities, townships, or boroughs what they can and cannot do with solar panels. 

 He said, “you’re right, in twenty-five to thirty years, those things are going to fail, and somebody needs to get rid of it.” 

Overall, Moul concluded that the question is not a state issue, but a municipality issue. 

Belliveau passed on the question. 

Agreeing with Moul, Qually said this is a local-controlled issue. He mentioned one thing he likes about the municipality is the encouragement of partnerships, though municipalities were not prepared for the issue relative to solar paneling. 

Qually said, “at the county level, one of the things we do to help municipalities is [create] draft ordinances,” which has worked in the past with solar paneling. 

He concluded that there are ways to help municipalities cover the burden, referring to it as a massive issue for the location close to the Power Grid and the need for energy. 

Should Pennsylvania move to some user-based model for state police?

Qually does not see a way to create a user-based system for law enforcement for those who cannot afford the law to come to their house and help. He says very few officers are in charge of this “very large area,” such as Amblebrook, who possess no municipality police coverage and are forced to rely on state police. 

He cannot see a user-based model as a solution if it is going to be a state issue, and said it must fund local police, which is up to local residents. 

Voting against this bill in the past, Moul responded that more crime would occur with a user-based state police force. 

He said, “You already pay for the state police once, whether you’re in a township or borough that has its own police, to get a bill from them for one of their services would be double taxation.” 

Belliveau would not be opposed toward a privatized force, allowing citizens to pay for their choice of protection rather than contributing toward a system they have no say in. 

What was your position on the Eisenhower bypass project?

Bellieveau asserted no opinion. 

Qually said in terms of bypass planning, the future must be considered.

He said that, “we’re not planning roads for today, we’re planning for traffic that’s going to happen in twenty years.” 

To not work ahead of the future, he said Adams County would fall behind and resemble urbanized areas such as York, Pennsylvania. 

Lastly, Moul encouraged the construction of the Eisenhower bypass. He mentioned an announcement coming within the next month or so, but the last phase or “impact phase” is happening currently. Moul concluded that “we should be breaking ground around late ‘24,” in terms of construction. 

The final question was:

There’s a lot of talk about how we can ensure free and fair elections in terms of mail-in ballots and drop-boxes, what are your thoughts? 

Qually said that fraud displayed in the press is “exaggerated extremely,” having participated in elections himself as County Commissioner. He has seen security of every aspect of the elections, with a singular case of fraud from 2020 under investigation in Adams County. 

Qually believes in adjusting term-limits, individual funding, redistricting reform, and open primaries, saying “most elections are won in the primary because of the way we have gerrymandered Pennsylvania.” 

As for election reform, Moul mentioned a Democrat Bill proposed for mail-in ballots. Moul emphasized that the governor signed the bill into law on the same day. SCOPA then added drop-boxes as a result of COVID-19, three additional days to register mail-in ballots, removed the signature match, and “ignored post markings.”   

Agreeing with Qually, Belliveau is in favor of term-limits for career politicians, is opposed to the gerrymandering of moderates molding districts in accordance with what their party wishes, and open primaries. 

Belliveau said, “it doesn’t matter what party you are, everyone should be allowed to vote.”

He touched on a topic undiscussed called “Ranked-Choice Voting.” Belliveau believes that voter engagement would increase under this system, allowing voters to select the “best” candidate. Ranked-Choice Voting, he says, would allow voters to rank their preference in candidates from first, second, and third. This method is used for Alaska and Maine’s primary and presidential elections. Bellieveau concluded that Ranked-Choice Voting would engage more voters to come out, and that voting against someone and choosing the lesser of two evils is not working. 

The candidates ended the debate with closing remarks.

Author: Gettysburgian Staff

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