Denise Maris – Pennsylvania – State House District 76
Tell us a little bit about yourself and your background.
I currently work as an HR Director for local nursing home. I am a graduate of Lock Haven University with a Bachelor’s in Business Management and a Master’s in Health Sciences. I am a mother of four and grandmother of two.
Why are you running for office?
When I saw that the people of the 76th District were not being represented as they should have been, I decided to step up. I believe that “If you have a problem, then we have a problem.” I want to help find the solutions to the obstacles that our communities are facing.
What are the three biggest issues facing your community?
Education: There are three school districts in the 76th District: Keystone Central School District, Mifflinburg Area School District, and Lewisburg Area School District. Supporting these students, staff and faculty is crucial. Preserving the opportunities provided by the PA State System of Higher Education’s Lock Haven University offers our students the ability to attend college closer to home.
Voting rights and Fair Districts: The right of citizens to vote and choose their representatives is paramount. Without free and fair elections, no other rights can be guaranteed.
Healthcare: Access to affordable, quality healthcare is vital to a healthy society.
How do you propose to solve those problems?
Education: I know that having access to a quality, affordable education empowers our students to compete on a global scale. I understand that the relationships that can be developed between our local students and local industry benefit both, and encourage our young people to stay, live, work, and raise their families in the district. I will put forward a plan for fair funding of all schools in the Commonwealth, as well as forge relationships between the schools and local industries to improve both.
Voting rights and Fair Districts: The current legislature is working to put up barriers to voting. They are even trying to raise the voting age to 21 through a constitutional amendment. They are also proposing the idea that the legislature will choose the electors in a presidential election; effectively taking the vote out of the hands of the people. These proposed changes disenfranchise voters and I will do everything in my power to stop it. Fair Districts of PA has developed a plan for drawing the new lines after the census that is a transparent, accountable process that will best reflect the will of the voters. This plan has had wide bipartisan support but has not been permitted out of committee due to partisan politicians steering the agenda. The legislators are to be chosen by the voter, not the voters being chosen by the legislator. I support a fair and transparent redistricting process that includes input of the people so that we can have elections that truly reflect the will of the voters.
Healthcare: Increased need for medical intervention has lead to people learning what their insurance covers as well as what it does not. Access to quality healthcare is a right, and not a privilege to be available only to those who can afford the high premiums. Additionally, another issue that is close to my heart is Veteran’s healthcare issues. Being a daughter of a Vietnam Veteran, I understand first-hand the effects of PTSD on a family. Veterans also experience Traumatic Brian Injuries and other challenges from serving our country. We must have appropriate services available to help all of them readjust to civilian life.
What is your stance on environmental and climate concerns that are facing your community?
I see the beauty and possibilities that our great district has to offer in Clinton and Union Counties. Exploring and promoting the PA Wilds will not only maintain the unique beauty of our state but will bring more revenue to the district. We need to teach our children from a young age to appreciate and nurture our natural resources. The current rate of climate change is evident in the increased number of severe storms, wide variations in temperatures, and increased flooding as water levels rise. The time to act is now and I will make every effort to make Pennsylvania a leader in environmental action. Furthermore, I believe in bringing more job opportunities to this area but not if it adversely affects our environment.
What commonsense gun safety measures would have the most impact on your community?
I will work to pass universal background checks for all gun sales. This is a measure that is supported by people from all backgrounds and political leanings. None of us wants someone with a violent criminal history or an unstable individual to have access to firearms. This measure would help to decrease the number of guns getting into the wrong hands. Not only will this protect innocent people from violent gun crime, but it will also protect our vulnerable citizens who struggle with suicide ideation. Preventing these folks from obtaining a firearm could prevent gun related suicides. I will fight to make these changes, not only in my district, but across the Commonwealth of PA.
How would criminal justice reforms impact your community?
I support decriminalizing marijuana which would impact many of those incarcerated for marijuana related offences. I also support putting systems in place to deal with those facing addiction. Incarceration is no way to get clean. There must be changes to the courts to allow for special circumstances when dealing with individuals with mental health challenges, and our veterans. These communities present special circumstances that will not be appropriately addressed in a standard criminal court.
How would you work to protect a woman’s reproductive health?
I am pro-choice and will work hard to protect reproductive rights. The fundamental right to make decisions about our own bodies must be guaranteed. Without that, there is no true liberty. Each of us has the freedom to decide when and with whom we have a child. Forcing someone to continue with a pregnancy against their will is against the rights guaranteed in the constitution. Women deserve equal protection under the law and should not be stripped of their self-determination.
What measures would you advocate to ensure that your constituents have the right to vote?
The ability of citizens to vote by mail has served to enfranchise those who work away from home such as military, transportation workers, and others. There has never been any widespread voter fraud proven in all the years citizens could vote by mail (since 1775). The changes to mail-in voting in 2020 had broad, bipartisan support and were successful. I believe that this practice should continue so that as many voters as possible can make their voice heard. I will also fight against the proposed constitutional amendment that would raise the voting age to 21. Our young people can fight to defend our nation, they should absolutely maintain the right to vote for those who would lead them.
I believe that the LGBTQ+ community deserves the same fundamental rights as all citizens of the United States. Who we marry, what job we desire, how we choose to raise our children, where we choose to live are all personal decisions that we have the constitutional freedom to make. No one, especially our representative government, has the right to infringe upon those decisions. Discrimination in any form is wrong. I will fiercely defend and uphold the rights of all individuals in Pennsylvania.
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