Sappey vying for third term in Harrisburg11/01/2022 04:06PM ● By Richard Gaw
Courtesy photo Rep. Christina Sappey takes the Oath of Office and is sworn in as a state representative to begin serving the constituents of the 158th legislative District in 2021.
By Richard L. Gaw
On Oct. 17, a lone figure walked into the crowded New Garden Township Building meeting space without fanfare or conversation, and took a seat at the very end of the first row.
For nearly one hour, State Rep. Christina Sappey did the job that she was first elected in 2019 to do: listen to the constituents of the 158th District. Of the more than 100 New Garden residents who assembled, nearly everyone expressed their anger to the township’s Board of Supervisors over the rising rates of their wastewater bills in recent months, the residue of the township’s sale of its wastewater system to Aqua for $29.5 million.
At the end, Sappey was asked to speak to those in attendance, all of whom had seen their sewer bills nearly double in recent months. She called the price hike “unconscionable,” but instead of matching the fury of the room, she spoke calmly, assuring her constituents that their frustrations are a part of the Big Water takeover of Pennsylvania, but that their voices will continue to be heard.
Since defeating Republican Eric Roe in 2018, Sappey has trekked from her district to Harrisburg for two terms, on a seemingly endless tour that has seen her both listen and act. As she wraps up her campaign for reelection to the Pa. House in a vote that will be decided on Nov. 8, she is a stakeholder on the precipice of huge decisions that must be made for southern Chester County and the entire Commonwealth.
While Sappey and her fellow lawmakers in the Pa. House continue to juggle an inordinate number of issues --- public education, gun violence prevention, immigration, healthcare and women’s reproductive rights among them – finding methods to boost the lagging state economy in a post-COVID world is at the top of the list.
“If you’re not thinking about the economy [as a top priority], you’re out of touch,” Sappey said. “I think it’s disingenuous and possibly misleading for a state representative to tell people that they are the person that can change that. I do not have a magic wand, but at the same time, we’re not sitting in Harrisburg ignoring the fact that we have record inflation and that families are hurting.”
Sappey believes that part of the economic solution that could stimulate a sluggish state economy rests in the ability to make Pennsylvania an attraction for businesses and industry to locate, in order to create family-sustaining jobs – particularly for a workforce that is expected to be made up of 75 percent millennials by 2025.
She supports the cutting of the corporate net income tax; passing state budgets that fund programs that help small and mid-sized businesses; the training and retention of emerging young talent; and affordable childcare that will move women back into the workforce.
“We have a major problem getting the big job creators to come to Pennsylvania,” she said. “We have the biomedical and agricultural industries as well as higher education in the southeastern part of the state, but it’s a huge state and there are lot of people who can’t find sustaining work, particularly in the upper tier and western parts of the state. People are sitting out right now, and that is affecting our employers and their bottom line.”
In addition to addressing local issues in the 158th District, Sappey has also served on a number of Pa. House committees during her four years in Harrisburg, including Agriculture & Rural Affairs, Local Government, Veterans Affairs & Emergency Preparedness, as well as on the Pa. Safe Caucus and the Women’s Health Caucus.
She has also worked with her Republican colleagues across the aisle, in particular John Lawrence from the nearby 13th District, in defending their neighboring constituencies against the continued buyout of municipal water and wastewater systems throughout Chester County and the state.
In 2020, she proposed legislation to establish a water ratepayer bill of rights, and sponsored HB Bill 1936, which would reserve the current valuation procedure to municipal or authority owned water or wastewater systems in financial and/or operational distress, limiting the number of over valuated sales.
Alongside Lawrence, she urged the Public Utilities Commission (PUC) to hold in-person meetings with residents to voice concerns. When that request was denied by the PUC, Sappey joined with Lawrence in hosting a public hearing by telephone while also testifying against additional rate increases.
“The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, and it is clear that we are going to have to regroup [on the issue of Aqua and Big Water],” Sappey said. “I think with a new administration and House, there will be great opportunities to let everyone know that we’re coming after this.”
If there is a nagging and lingering impediment to seeing true progress and reform in Harrisburg, Sappey said it is seen in the current House rules, which she said are preventing legislation from getting off of the chamber floor. She advocates amending the rules to allow legislation to be considered through a committee process.
“As the house rules are now – which are entrenched in Harrisburg -- they prevent a lot of legislation from moving, prevent thoughtful deliberation and hearings, prevents the minority party to put forth legislation, and gives the House leadership the ability to squash legislation,” she said. “If we can change the House Rules to enable more legislation to be considered, we will have more of a shot to change legislation.
It’s even more important that we change the way we allow municipalities to get the tools they need to protect their residents.”
As her campaign for a potential third term winds down, Sappey said that the biggest challenge of her role as a legislator is also what helps set her district apart from the cookie-cutter demographics of other districts in the state: Its rich diversity.
“Many of my fellow legislators from other parts of the state don’t comprehend how Chester County is more than just one flavor, and that what’s pressing in West Goshen is very different than what is urgent in Avondale,” she said. “Having to shuffle and prioritize the needs of residents with such diversity has been a challenge, but we have done it. My team has done a beautiful job of loving and supporting their fellow neighbors, and making sure that our communities are all walking forward and growing together.”
To contact Staff Writer Richard L. Gaw, email [email protected]