Many issues affecting our district and region can be best resolved at the state level, where communities across Pennsylvania can work together for a better future. Unfortunately, many of today's elected officials are hardly leaders and do not speak out or set a positive vision for Pennsylvania. In all too many cases, members of both the Republican and Democratic Party work together in a bipartisan way to support corporate profits over the interests of the people, or even to attack women's rights. As a state legislator, Garret would be a vocal champion for the people of the 45th district and all of Pennsylvania.
Below is a summary of our top priorities, in no particular order. Please consider this list a starting point, not an end point -- we intend to update this page regularly with more detailed proposals that combine further research with community feedback. We'd love your feedback, please contact us!
Protect Our Air and Water
The Pennsylvania Constitution is supposed to guarantee our right to clean air and water in Article 1 Section 27, however our local and state officials have been placing corporate profits over our Constitutional rights. It is long past time to enforce our rights to clean air and water by implementing the following.
- Ban Fracking. Many other states and countries have already banned fracking for its health and environmental damage, Pennsylvania needs to do the same immediately.
- Oppose "Cracker Plants" and Petrochemical Industry. Louisiana has a petrochemical industry region -- it is now known as "cancer alley". The "cracker plant" is about making more disposable plastic products that we don't need, it isn't about energy independence. Let's not put our children or our planet at risk. We can have much better jobs in green infrastructure.
- Implement and Enforce Stronger Pollution Regulations. The Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) must be given a clear mandate to protect our environment and our health first, rather than rubber-stamp fossil fuel projects. The DEP must be given an appropriate budget to properly inspect and enforce as well -- DEP's budget has been slashed and must be restored and increased.
We don't have to sacrifice our health and environment for jobs if we invest in renewable energy and important green infrastructure upgrades. A Green New Deal for Pennsylvania will ensure good green infrastructure jobs for anyone that wants one. We won't leave anyone behind -- anyone currently working in fossil fuel jobs will receive any needed help during the transition, including job training if needed.
- Renewable Energy -- Solar, Wind, Geothermal. By utilizing a mix of renewable energy sources, Pennsylvania can quickly transition away from fossil fuels to a fully renewable energy economy. We must do this by 2030 to address the impacts of climate change, and even sooner to clean our air and water and improve our health. The state should provide funding and subsidies for residential and commercial buildings to switch to renewable energy, instead of the billions spent every year subsidizing the fossil fuel industry. There will be decades of work switching our infrastructure to renewable energy and modernizing it.
- Clean Water Infrastructure. Much of the water infrastructure in our district, and across the state, is decades if not over a century old. We must replace our failing water infrastructure -- the pipes, as well as the treatment plants. We must ensure toxic pollutants such as lead are completely removed from our drinking water, no more children should be exposed. Overhauling our water system will create many good jobs.
- Walkable Cities and Public Transit. State funding should help all of our communities become walkable, including more sidewalks and bike lanes. Improved public transit will be necessary in many communities. Electrified public buses cut emissions and energy usage much more than even using electric cars. Walkable cities will create many good jobs in construction projects, and encourage more local small businesses.
An Economic Bill of Rights
Every resident in Pennsylvania deserves to have a decent life, free from stress of worrying about basic needs. No one should ever become homeless or hungry, or be forced to go without life-saving medication, ever again. I therefore propose the following items, to be introduced as Constitutional Amendments to allow the people of Pennsylvania to vote and declare loudly: we shall never allow poverty in our state again.
- A Right to Food and Water. Everyone deserves to have basic food and water. In the short term, this means establishing state programs to compensate for reduced federal funding to SNAP and related programs; we should also enact free school meals to all students at all public schools. In the long term, communities should become self-sufficient and grow their own healthy food -- state funding can help every community create their own food co-ops, community gardens, and more.
- A Right to Housing. Everyone deserves to have basic housing. We can implement rent controls, but I also favor developing more public housing.
- A Right to Healthcare. Everyone deserves to have life-saving medicine and treatment. An Improved and Expanded "Medicaid for All" is a good way to create a guaranteed, comprehensive single payer healthcare system to ensure everyone gets the care they need and to lower costs in the process. Healthcare should be free at the point of service, without any co-pays, premiums, or deductibles, to ensure everyone gets the care they need immediately without worrying about medical debt.
- A Right to Public Education. We must ensure our public schools receive fair and equitable funding so that every child has an opportunity to excel. Teachers deserve a raise. Public education should include pre-K up through college. We must also end student loan debt by providing tuition-free public college and job training programs, and forgive current student debt holders. Public college and job training should be available to all adults, not just ones right out of high school.
- A Right to a Living Wage - At Least $20/hr. According to the Economic Policy Institute, the average cost of living in Allegheny County for a single adult is more than $30,000 per year -- and going on $80,000 per year for a family of two adults and two children. Dividing this value by a typical full-time work schedule comes out to about $20 per hour. Pennsylvania should set the legal minimum wages to at least this $20/hr living wage to ensure no one is left in poverty, and ensure that the minimum remains in line with the cost of living automatically. The currently proposed plans to raise the wage to $9.25 (slowly, over a few years) are completely unacceptable for the families struggling today.
Restorative Justice, Not Incarceration
I support efforts to create a restorative justice system rather than a punitive one. Let's end cash bail and stop jailing people for non-violent crimes. We best combat crime with more jobs and more schools, not with more jails. We also must enact more public oversight over police departments and ensure officers are held accountable for misbehavior and abuse of authority.
- End Cash Bail. People facing charges as simple as not paying a parking ticket can face high cash requirements for bail, otherwise they will sit in jail for days, weeks, even months awaiting trial. This is unacceptable, especially for non-violent crimes; it is effectively punishment before even having a trial and day in court, and can ruin people's lives over nothing. Let's completely end cash bail.
- Cannabis and Drug Decriminalization. Cannabis should not only be decriminalized, but also legalized for any use. Everyone currently serving a sentence for cannabis use should be released from jail and have the record expunged. Furthermore, drug use in general should be decriminalized; addiction should be considered a public health issue rather than a criminal issue.
- Prison and Jail Moratorium. I will oppose any new prison construction projects. We must decarcerate, not look for more ways to lock people up in cages.
- Demilitarize Local Police and Change Training. Current police academy curriculum heavily emphasizes weapons training (including pistols, rifles, and shotguns) and spends comparatively little time on constitutional rights; the curriculum must be changed to emphasize human and civil rights. Police should be expected to focus on de-escalation, particularly when responding to calls that do not pose any immediate risk to public safety.
- State Funding for Public Defenders and Civilian Review Boards. Public defender offices in Pennsylvania are currently paid for by county governments. The state should supplement funding an ensure that public defenders get at least as many resources as district attorneys and prosecutors. Defendants should actually be treated as innocent until proven guilty. In a democracy, the people should have the right to review the service of any public official, including police officers; county-level civilian police review boards with sufficient investigatory and subpoena powers can go along way to providing accountability and creating trust. State legislation may be required to full empower these review boards.
We won't have true democracy until the people of our district have a direct say in the decisions being made. Unfortunately, the will of the people is often overruled by private, corporate interests. Legislators often take "gifts" from corporate lobbyists, and have enacted "pre-emption" laws to prevent communities from making their own decisions on important topics like jobs and the environment. We must create a stronger democracy, open more decision-making up to our communities, and make our state government more transparent and accountable. We can do that with:
- A Right to Statewide Ballot Referendum. The people should be able to work around an unresponsive state legislator by directly petitioning for a ballot referendum. This allows the people to directly propose state laws that are then voted on by the people. Similar rights exist at the local and federal levels, we must ensure a procedure for it at the state level too so that the people are always the final say.
- A Right to Self-Governance. A Constitutional amendment declaring that municipalities have a right to self-governance free from "pre-emption" by state officials. If state officials fail to act on important issues, municipalities should always have the right to take action themselves.
- Proportional Representation and Ranked Choice Voting. A proportional representation system can eliminate the effects of gerrymandering and ensure that all communities are properly represented in a legislative body. Many countries around the world already use a form of proportional representation, and cities in the US are beginning to adopt it. Maine recently adopted ranked choice voting. Pennsylvania must adopt proportional representation for all state and local legislative bodies, and ranked choice for single-winner executive or judicial offices.
A proper tax policy emphasizes good jobs and public investments, not bailouts and handouts for billionaires and huge corporations. Instead of high sales taxes and property taxes that hit the poor the hardest, it is time for the wealthy to pay their fair share of taxes again. Pennsylvania income taxes should be set in a progressive way; if the current Constitution does not allow progressive income taxation, as some believe, we support amending the Constitution to make it clear.
Defend Reproductive Rights
Women's rights, especially the right to abortion, have been under increasing attack from Republicans and even some Democrats. Let me make it clear: women's reproductive rights, including the right to safe and legal abortions, are non-negotiable. Reproductive health must also be part of the universal right to healthcare.
As guiding principles when considering new laws, Garret supports the following general policy: the Green Party of the United States' Green New Deal, as well as the platforms of both the Green Party of Pennsylvania and the Green Party of Allegheny County.