What are your top three legislative priorities in 2021? I think this year has changed our priorities. I think the priority for right now is the Constitutional Amendment, Senate Bill 1166 that gives the legislature a seat at the table after 21 days of a state of emergency. Of course, we’re going to have a great challenge with our budget, and we just heard DC isn’t going to help us at all, so that will be a huge challenge. And we need to do that because we need to help make sure we can get our businesses back up and going, we’re not increasing taxes on people, all the things that make an economy spiral downward we don’t want to do. So that’s a big challenge. And I think election issues, right off the bat, we have to fix some of the stuff that just happened in this election. I think it’s important that we get to the bottom of this so that we don’t have people who don’t have any confidence in this process at all. We need to find out what happened, where, and we need some questions answered, because that’s been all over the place.
What are the important issues facing your district? Recovery from COVID is the biggest issue facing our district, facing our local government and facing our schools, and probably it’s the same in everybody’s districts. What do we do to move ahead and try to make everybody as whole as we can?
Where do you shop locally for food? Giant Eagle, Shop N Save, that’s where I shop for food.
What is your favorite vacation destination, and why? That’s a tough one, I like every place. I probably enjoy Napa the most. I enjoy wine country. We were in Europe and we went to Alsace in France, to wine country, so I like any vacations that include wine. I like the ambiance around wine. You talk, you listen to music, and I love wine festivals.
What are the biggest challenges for grocers in your district? Keeping their shelves stocked with some things and trying to hold the prices down, because the prices have gone up a whole lot. And having people come into the store—they deliver now—most people do delivery. Those are some of the things where they are challenged. Everybody still has to buy food. No matter what happens to the economy, you still have to buy food.
What are your biggest challenges and successes as a legislator? The challenge is definitely making sure that the people I serve know what is actually happening. Messaging and communicating with the folks in the district is really important. I’m very active on social media. I think I’m the only one—someone told me that the other day—I actually talk to these people. I put a post up, and it’s like a townhall meeting when I put stuff up. It’s a very good way to communicate and keep things running smoothly, because you’re talking to them and you’re telling them. Even in this last year, (when) I was up for election, even people who didn’t like me, or didn’t support me, I would get messages from them—thanks for talking to us, thanks for communicating, I appreciate that. I don’t agree, but I appreciate the dialogue.
Can you describe what it means to you to make history as the first woman elected to be the PA Senate Majority Leader? The day I won, I wasn’t even thinking I was the first woman elected. I was thinking, I’m a Senator, and I’ve been elected. It wasn’t until we left the room there within no time, I started getting all kinds of messages and all kinds of media on it, and I thought, wow, I guess I am. I’m a woman, but I’m a Senator. It’s been kind of nice, because I’ve been getting messages from women from all kinds of states. People I didn’t know who were sending me messages and sending me congratulations, and they were probably somehow tied to politics to know that happened, and that was very, very satisfying. …It really is an honor. And I have folks in Harrisburg... the one person who works with us and is part of our team in the office said, “I want to tell my daughters that I work for the first female majority leader.” It’s really quite an honor.
What is your favorite food or meal to cook? I do love to make lasagna, and I’m really good at it. My nice 100% Italian mother and grandmother, I lived with her growing up. I do love to make lasagna. I like to cook.
What do you like to do for fun? I like to go sit at a winery, I like to listen to music, and I do that all the time. Every chance I get, I listen to music and go somewhere. I know all of the local singers, they are all of my friends because I do that. ...Usually I go to a concert, maybe two, every month.
(This Q&A has been lightly edited for length.)
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Liz Kemmery, director of communications