WAYNE AND PIKE COUNTIES, PA — State Rep. Michael Peifer has been serving Pennsylvania’s 139th legislative district since 2007. In that time, he said that issues regarding “quality …
WAYNE AND PIKE COUNTIES, PA — State Rep. Michael Peifer has been serving Pennsylvania’s 139th legislative district since 2007. In that time, he said that issues regarding “quality of life” and “tranquility of the community” rank among the most important to residents in Wayne and Pike counties.
“People from all over travel here because of the quality of our schools,” Peifer said, and that roughly one-third of his district’s land is preserved federally or through the state. Aside from maintaining the area’s high academic standards and serene landscape, Peifer said top priorities of his job include bringing in sustainable jobs and improving access to broadband—high-speed internet.
As Peifer runs for reelection this year against Democratic challenger Marian Keegan, a local forester, most of these top-priority issues are uniquely challenging—or pressing—in the time of COVID-19.
The pandemic’s effect on the local job market has been quite “fickle” and not affected everyone the same way, Peifer said.
“Boating... realty, these industries have been winners,” he said. “Other businesses have struggled mightily; the whole dynamic of the hospitality industry has suffered and will continue to struggle.”
The hospitality industry has seen some of the tightest COVID-19 restrictions instituted by Gov. Tom Wolf’s administration. The economic repercussions of these restrictions have placed Republican lawmakers consistently at odds with the governor since March. As a GOP lawmaker himself, however, Peifer’s tone toward the governor is far less severe than some others in the General Assembly.
“I’m not critical of the federal or state governments’ initial response [to COVID-19],” he said. “I don’t see it as anyone’s fault... we were totally caught off guard.”
This isn’t to say that Peifer has not disagreed with Wolf on issues along the way. In fact, he had to conduct his phone interview with the River Reporter from his car last week because he had been summoned back to Harrisburg to vote on overriding a gubernatorial veto on a recent school sports bill.
Peifer also takes issue with Wolf’s use of emergency and disaster declarations, specifically regarding the opioid epidemic and the current pandemic. Wolf has renewed his 90-day opioid disaster declaration 11 times since 2018.
“Is it really effective after three years?” Peifer asked. “I think the emergency part is over... we know what we’re up against.”
While he doesn’t see to eye-to-eye with Wolf on a number of issues, Peifer noted that doesn’t revel in his disagreement, despite the fact that politics has “become a contact sport.”
“I’m not a guy who’s posting a selfie online and saying, ‘I’m on my way to Harrisburg to show this governor who’s boss,’” he said. “It’s okay to have different ideas as Americans; I will respect the governor forever, but it’s okay to have dissenting opinions.”
In the race for this district, Peifer’s Democratic opponent has a dissenting opinion of her own on the topic of fracking in the Delaware River Basin; she wants it permanently banned. Peifer said that along with supporting alternative energies, he’s open to harvesting natural gas in this region with buffer zones between fracking sites and the Delaware River. He argued that the river currently faces greater risks from nearby landfills and sewer discharge than it would from fracking.
If reelected for another term, Peifer said he wants to help residents weather the inevitable struggles of COVID-19. Citing his experience as an accountant and treasurer, Peifer foresees “a decade of COVID-related problems.” With the Pennsylvania government taking huge economic hits and “facing liquidity problems,” Peifer said this eventually leaves less money for Wayne and Pike counties to pass to its local government programs, schools, libraries and much else that relies on state funding.
“I want to support the schools, I want to support these programs, and that’s going to become difficult,” he said. “I’m very humbled [by], very thankful for the people of Wayne and Pike... I want to see everyone succeed and it’s really hard seeing people struggle.”