Lawmakers have long been called public servants because they work for the people. Never has that been truer than for these past four months when the pandemic and resulting shutdown sent countless numbers of frustrated Pennsylvanians to their local reps and senators for help.
“Been very busy here in the office,” Sen. John DiSanto (R-Dauphin, Perry) told me in an interview at his Capitol office. “There’s a lot of confusion going on with the re-opening and the Governor’s orders backing up restaurants and bars to 25% capacity. There are still a lot of people struggling with unemployment. They haven’t received their unemployment for weeks—months actually. Other people are calling in and they’re getting double payments. It never stops over there at L&I. We’ve never been busier in the office since COVID has started.”
DiSanto had called for the resignation of Labor and Industry Secretary Jerry Oleksiak over his response to problems with PA’s unemployment system. The senator also pointed out the dysfunction and management of the office within the department even before Oleksiak took over. A performance audit had revealed that nearly $180-million in taxpayer dollars had been spent under the previous secretary on an unsuccessful modernization project.
But that has certainly not been the extent of Sen. DiSanto’s work this summer. He was able to steer a bill through the legislature this year that will give ex-offenders a second chance at a career. The PA Catholic Conference was in full support of DiSanto on this measure, as were lawmakers from both parties.
“That was Senate Bill 637, now known as Act 53,” DiSanto said. “It deals with second chances and inmates trying to get out of prison or people that have criminal records, helping them obtain licenses so that they can mainstream back into society. We’ve eliminated a lot of cumbersome language—moral turpitude, good moral character has been removed. The licensing boards have had to provide a clear list of crimes that would prevent people from holding a license, prior the them even applying for a license. It also streamlines the process so that people can get back into work and become productive parts of society. Very proud of that. It was a great piece of legislation. Got bipartisan support. That was a big win for the citizens of Pennsylvania.”