ELECTION 2016: Cole, Staats vie for 145th District seat
Perkasie News Herald
Published: Tuesday, October 25, 2016
By Bob Keeler
@bybobkeeler on Twitter
Democrat Vera Cole, a political newcomer who labels herself an “engineer, educator, friend to all,” and incumbent Republican Craig Staats, a former Richland Township Board of Supervisors member who two years ago was elected to his first term in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives, are this year’s candidates for the 145th District seat.
The district includes East Rockhill, Milford, Richland, Springfield and West Rockhill townships and Perkasie, Quakertown, Richlandtown, Sellersville and Trumbauersville boroughs.
Growing up on a family farm in South Carolina helped form her work ethic and connection to nature, Cole said.
After previous jobs with manufacturing companies and high-tech startups, she has been lead faculty for Penn State’s energy and sustainability policy program for the past eight years, she said.
“I always tell my students to be the change you want, and I feel frustrated with Harrisburg,” said the West Rockhill resident who serves on the township’s conservation committee.
“The kind of change that I would hope to be a part of is helping us do a better job of talking to one another,” Cole said, “and working together to put the people’s interests first.”
One of her priorities is make the state’s tax system more fair, she said.
“We have one of the most unfair tax systems in the country in terms of how hard hit low- and middle-income families are. They pay more than their fair share of their income in taxes,” Cole said.
There are different short- and long-term ways of addressing the problem, she said.
“Something I look forward to the opportunity of working with others on is to make it so that we can raise the revenue that we need in a manner that’s more fair to all of our families,” Cole said.
“I also think we need to restore state funding to our school systems to continue to make sure that all children have access to a quality education regardless of where they happen to be born,” Cole said.
Educational funding must be designed so it is “taking care of our school children, but also providing property tax relief, which has become a very real problem for too many families in our community,” Cole said.
Environmental issues are also important, she said.
“We need to make very sure that we put our safe air, water and climate at the top of the list of priorities,” Cole said.
That includes transitioning to a clean energy economy, modernizing the electrical grid and helping align utility company business models with environmental interests, she said.
Information about Cole is available at veracoleforpa.com and the Vera Cole for PA State Rep Facebook page.
As a first time candidate, “I’ve had a lot to learn, but it’s just been terrific interacting with the community,” Cole said.
“I love talking with people,” she said, “and hearing their issues.”
If elected, she’ll keep doing that, she said.
“Staying close to the community is top priority with me,” Cole said.
Biographic information on Staats includes that he is a U.S. Navy veteran and has 32 years of business-related experience, including 25 years in the restaurant industry.
As he is finishing his first term in the House of Representatives, Staats said, “I really enjoy what I do. I take it very seriously. I enjoy representing the 145th District in Harrisburg and serving them back here at home.”
Accomplishments by the state government during his first term include passage of the state’s $31.6 billion 2016-17 budget, he said.
“We increased school funding while not increasing sales or income taxes,” Staats said. “I think we need to continue to be fiscally responsible as we move forward.
“Another accomplishment we made is the wine privatization act,” Staats said.
“Supermarkets with a restaurant license will now be able to sell wine, and consumers can enjoy expanded hours at the liquor stores,” he said.
Business organizations have endorsed him for re-election, he said.
“Two years ago when I was running for this seat, I said that I would be a strong representative for the business community and champion their cause, and I’m just real pleased to be able to have delivered on that promise,” Staats said. “In addition, I’m a big supporter of the Second Amendment and I picked up the endorsement of the NRA as well as Firearms Owners Against Crime.”
He said he has also been an advocate for law enforcement and firefighters.
“Open space has always been important to me as well,” Staats said.
That began with Richland Township land preservation programs and has continued in Harrisburg, where he introduced a bill to exempt conservation easements from having to pay the realty transfer tax, he said. When a conservation easement is purchased, the property cannot be further developed.
In the past, the tax had not been charged on conservation easements, he said.
“All of a sudden, there was some changes in the Department of Revenue and somebody said, ‘Hey, we can charge this realty transfer tax,’ and they started to do it and our concern was that it would become a disincentive to preserving open space,” Staats said.
The bill was not passed, but the language from it was incorporated in the 2016-17 state budget, which puts that language into law and means the tax will not be charged, he said.
His support of renewable energy sources continues, he said. Richland Township did a solar energy project while he was a supervisor and he supported the addition of solar energy at Quakertown Community High School, he said.
His committee assignments in the House of Representatives are the education, liquor control, aging & older adult services and human services committees.
The three school districts with portions in the 145th District — Pennridge, Palisades and Quakertown — are “great school districts,” Staats said.
“I’ve been working very closely with the superintendents, trying to be a strong voice for them out in Harrisburg, especially sitting on the Education Committee,” he said.
Information on Staats is available at staatsforstaterep.com and on the Craig Staats for State Representative Facebook page.