Times 2022 election questionnaire: Dan Williams, 74th State House District

Dan Williams

It is time again — for the fourth straight election cycle — for The Times election questionnaire for legislative candidates — your chance to get an unfiltered look at candidates’ views on various issues. The questions were sent out in September to both major parties in the county, asking them to be distributed to the individual campaigns. As always, the answers are not edited and run as submitted. They will be run in the order they are submitted and all that are sent in will be run in a timely fashion.

1. Was there widespread election fraud in Pennsylvania in 2020? Did Joe Biden fairly win the commonwealth? If you think there was fraud, explain in detail, specifically where there was fraud in your opinion. Also, should counties, such as Chester, be allowed to pre-canvass and do early counts on mail-in ballots? Explain why or why not.

No, there was no widespread election fraud in 2020 in Pennsylvania (or any other state for that matter), and President Joe Biden fairly won the Commonwealth. Any suggestion otherwise is simply not rooted in fact and being dangerously exploited as an excuse by the former president to justify why he failed to gain enough popular support to win. Period. Full stop.

As for pre-canvassing: YES, we absolutely should have pre-canvassing, which would provide counties relief when having to essentially run two elections (one for mail-ins, one for in-person) at the same time. Pre-canvassing would also allow results to be posted in a more timely manner. I authored a clean 2-week pre-canvassing bill in 2020, but it never received any hearings because the Republican majority is using pre-canvassing as a hostage for other voting restrictions. It’s time to get a clean pre-canvassing bill passed!

2. In light of the Dobbs ruling this year by the U.S. Supreme Court, abortion rights are now left to the individual states. Do you support adding restrictions to the current Pennsylvania law?

No, I do not support additional restrictions on abortion. The right to an abortion is a right of privacy, and decisions on abortion should be left solely up to women and those she seeks to consult with. The government has NO business getting in the way of these personal matters. I’m proud to be endorsed by Planned Parenthood, and will continue to fight against these personal attacks on privacy.

3. Gubernatorial candidate Doug Mastriano has proposed slashing funding to public schools by as much as 50%. Do you support this concept and if so, how would local school districts pay to educate kids? If you don’t support this, do you feel public schools are underfunded, and if so, where would you find revenue to boost state contributions?

Doug Mastriano’s school funding plan (and his candidacy in general) would be a cataclysmic disaster for Pennsylvania. As both a citizen of this Commonwealth and as a Pastor in the Christian faith, I completely reject Doug Mastriano and this plan.

Pennsylvania’s public-school districts have been chronically underfunded for years and the impacts of that are blatantly clear. We as a Commonwealth and as a legislature MUST live up to our constitutional responsibility to “provide for the maintenance and support of a thorough and efficient system of public education”. I’m pleased that the 2022-23 budget took steps to increase funding for public education, and I’m proud to have the support of both the American Federation of Teachers – PA and the Pennsylvania State Education Association. But we must not assume that our work is done just with that. The more the state legislature lives up to its responsibilities of funding public education, then the more our students will benefit from fair and equitable funding to support our learning, and the less our seniors & other property owners will have to bear the brunt through increased property taxes. It is a win for everyone to increase state funding and the state’s share to public schools.

We still have a ways to go though, and one of the biggest challenges we need to address is charter school reform. I support charter school reform, and am a co-sponsor of HB272 to address this very issue. If we’re going to treat ALL schools fairly – and put kids and families first – we need a law built for the future. We need charters to be partners with our traditional public schools, not competitors for dollars taken from long-suffering homeowners. We need to be tough on the schools failing our kids when it comes to academics, ethics, and cost. We need to reward solid performers who are innovating while still delivering on our obligations. We can save almost $250 million a year and make our current system better. HB272 can accomplish that.

4. Once again, a House bill would propose ending gifts and perks for legislators. Where do you stand on this bill? Is it appropriate for legislators to take gifts— trips and so on — from those lobbying them on various issues?

I support ending gifts and perks for legislators and clamping down on corruption writ large. The people who elect us should have confidence that we, the legislature, are working on their behalf. The lack of oversight or outright ban on gifts erodes that confidence. I know there are several proposals being put forth by various good government groups, and I support those overall goals. We can get this done.

5. Bringing back questions from 2020 (as the situation is largely unchanged): Pennsylvania is still 47th by some measures in funding higher education — many other state schools charge less for out-of-state students than Pa. schools charge for in-state students. Is the state underfunding our higher education institutions?

When the PA State System of Higher Education (PASSHE) was created, the vast majority of the operating budget came from state appropriations. The Commonwealth funds the State System at the same level as it did in 2007 (not even accounting for inflation). Given the significant change in allocations since, the students now fund most of the universities’ operational budgets. According to Forbes, Pennsylvanians have the 2nd highest student debt among the states and carry over $68 billion in student debt. The answer to me is clear: the Commonwealth is vastly underfunding our higher education institutions, and we the legislature should set about making investments in these critical institutions to our Commonwealth. That’s why I’m proud to be endorsed by the Association of Pennsylvania State College and University Faculties in my re-election campaign. The more investment we make in schools here in PA, the more people will stay in PA, helping both our communities and our economy.

6. Gov. Tom Wolf and Lt. Gov. John Fetterman (who is currently the Democratic U.S. Senate nominee) have come out strongly for legalization of marijuana for adults (and expunging records for those with possession convictions). Where do you stand on this issue?

I support legalization of marijuana so long as it includes expungement for possession convictions. Too many people, especially people of color, have had their lives ruined due to simple possession convictions. Even President Biden agrees these convictions were wrong, which is why I support his recent pardoning of federal simple possession convictions and Governor Wolf’s actions to expedite clemency requests for marijuana convictions. It’s time we right this egregious wrong by expunging these records and giving them a chance to lead our new way forward.

7. We’ve seen claims by some candidates that police are underfunded, resulting in rising crime. Should local municipalities be expected to pay more of the costs of State Police if they do not have local police? Additionally, does the state need to find a new funding mechanism for law enforcement funding, either locally or statewide?

The Commonwealth needs to evaluate how municipalities receive police coverage and how that coverage is funded. Some municipalities in my district have decided having their own full-time police force is best. Some rely on PSP. However, as research has shown, using PSP for police services still necessitates municipalities supplement their services. I believe that municipalities that wish to use PSP for their police services should reimburse PSP for those services, and am willing to work with localities and PSP to find a compromise that works for both. That’s why I’m proud to be endorsed by the Fraternal Order of Police in this re-election campaign.

8. With the growth of gun violence in the commonwealth in recent years, do you support changes to gun safety laws in Pennsylvania?

As a gun owner myself, I know how dangerous guns can be. I support common-sense gun safety laws and am a co-sponsor on several proposals to make our communities safer: increased background checks, required training by licensed educators, extreme risk protection orders, bans on military-grade assault weapons, bump stock bans, and more. Each of these measures would help curb the gun violence epidemic that plagues our communities. I’m proud to have the support of Moms Demand Action and CeaseFire PA as we pursue safer neighborhoods.

9. Fracking and the Mariner East II pipeline are increasingly becoming controversial in Chester County, especially after a number of events — including discharge into Marsh Creek State Park. Has the state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) properly supervised the pipeline construction? Also, where do you stand on fracking? Should it be halted in the state?

I’ve been proud to be rated as a 100% Lifetime Environmental Champion during my tenure in office and am proud to have the endorsements of not just the Conservation Voters of PA and the Sierra Club, but also business leaders like the Chester County Chamber of Business & Industry and the PA Farm Bureau. The DEP should be trusted to maintain the public’s best interest when it comes to balancing our economy and our environment. I have co-sponsored legislation to ensure that appropriate safety measures are being put in place for any pipeline construction, and am committed to ensuring that our environment is being protected.

We also need to increase our investments in conservation. One step is supporting Pennsylvania’s entry into the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI). Studies have shown that RGGI has been successful in capping and limiting greenhouse gas emissions, so it is a start. In addition, I am a co-sponsor on the “Go 100% Pennsylvania” initiative (HB100), as well as efforts to exempt solar energy devices from taxation (HB1124 & 1138). Finally, increasing energy efficiency and conservation means that we will decrease the amount of energy needed for our daily lives. The cheapest, cleanest form of energy is the energy that we don’t need to produce in the first place. Thus, I’ve co-sponsored HB1185 to increase state efficiency requirements.

10. Are Pennsylvania’s protections for the LGBTQ community adequate? Do you support existing gay marriage rights?

As a Pastor, I teach my parishioners about the First Epistle of John, to “love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God” (1 John 4:7). All Pennsylvanians should feel safe to be their best, authentic selves without harassment or discrimination from the government, including the LGBTQ+ community. Presently, Pennsylvania law does not do enough to protect all its citizens. That’s why I’m proud to be endorsed by the Human Rights Campaign and am a cosponsor of the Fairness Act (HB300) and other bills to strengthen the rights and protections of LGBTQ+ Pennsylvanians.

11. Is there an issue in Pennsylvania you feel does not get enough attention that you plan to highlight if elected?

Reopening Brandywine Hospital is my biggest concern that I continue to work on. The closure of Brandywine is negatively impacting both population and economic growth in my district. Who wants to start or operate businesses in my area if there is no medical facility to treat their personnel when an emergency occurs? I am working hard negotiating with operators to take over and re-open Brandywine Hospital, and am working on legislation to ensure such drastic changes are not made hastily and without community input. In addition, I’m working on legislation to create grant programs allowing fire/EMS services to upgrade their services to provide for the residential and business communities they now must operate in.

12. Getting personal, can you tell us something about yourself that might surprise people (ie, unusual hobby or pet, brush with fame, etc.)?

Prior to my political career, I had a history as a studio recording artist. As an electric and upright bass player, I was privileged to be featured in several studio recordings in the jazz and rock genres. 

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