During an hour-long "" Wednesday night, state Rep. Duane Milne (R-PA167) fielded questions on topics ranging from voter ID legislation to medicinal bee stings.
The first caller, Robert, questioned whether there were any incidents of voter fraud to support state legislation that would require proof of identity at the polls. Milne cited his work on the Chester County Voter Reform Task Force and said he had voted for the voter ID bill. Two poll workers who called in later said they supported the bill, citing voters illegible signatures as a source of confusion at the polls.
"I don't believe it's an undue burden" to show identification when voting, Milne said.
A St. Monica parishioner called in to ask Milne's position on school choice vouchers. The representative expressed regret that the Berwyn school was closing and said that he was generally in favor of school choice legislation. He explained that Senate Bill 1 would start a voucher system in about 20 school districts at first, then expand. Full implementation could take as much as $1 billion out of the $9 billion in state funds for public schools, which could have negative repercussions for districts like Great Valley and Tredyffrin-Easttown.
"The struggle that I'm working through is how to be supportive of that kind of choice, and helping kids and parents, but also making sure that we approach it in a way that doesn't drain resources away from the public school districts in Chester County," he said.
On other statewide issues: Milne said he expected the Commonwealth to get out of the alcohol sales business eventually, but that the transition would take time. He said that the Marcellus Shale had "unlimited potential," but that environmental protections and appropriate fees will be put in place.
"Pennsylvania is situated such that we could become one of world’s leading producers and leading distributors in terms of natural gas," he said.
Perhaps the most impressive segue came after a caller named October inquired why people want to kill insects like tsetse flies and bees, instead of investigating their possible curative properties.
"God made the insects, he made the snakes," October said. "Why not use what God put on this earth?"
In his answer, Milne underscored the strong biomedical sector in Chester County, which makes possible the type of research the caller mentioned.
"New York is known for Wall Street, California is known for Silicon Valley ... I'd really like to see Pennsylvania be known as the biomedical hub," Milne said.
The representative struck a similar "pro-business" tone in response to a young caller who said his father, a mechanical engineer, moved to Iowa to find work and only comes home four times per year. Milne said Pennsylvania needs to improve its business climate and told the young man to have his father send a resume to his office so he would circulate it.