Bizzarro talks focus going forward, including animal abuse bill, education

Category:  News
Wednesday, November 9th, 2016 at 11:35 PM
Bizzarro talks focus going forward, including animal abuse bill, education by Dakota Palmer
Photo: Pahouse.com/Bizzarro

Democratic State Representative Ryan Bizzarro was re-elected Pennsylvania’s third district representative Tuesday, beating out Republican challenger Greg Lucas.

Being an Erie native, Bizzarro graduated from McDowell High School in 2004 and graduated from Edinboro University of Pennsylvania in 2008 with an associate degree in political science and a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice. Additionally, he has a master’s degree in public administration from Gannon University.

Before becoming state representative of the third district in 2013, Bizzarro was a victim/ witness coordinator and advocate for the Office of the Erie County District Attorney and the Crime Victim Center. Additionally, he worked as a behavioral health specialist at McKinley Elementary School and created a partnership between the school and the Big Brothers Big Sisters program.

Bizzarro worked as a liaison for the local and national campaign offices for Hillary Clinton when she ran for president in 2008.

Currently, Bizzarro is a board member for the Northwestern Pennsylvania Big Brothers Big Sisters program, a member of the Erie County Industrial Development Authority, a committee member of the Erie County Truancy Task Force and co-chairman of the Young Erie Professionals civic engagement committee.

In the days leading up to the election, The Spectator’s voices editor, Dakota Palmer, spoke to the now winner. This story originally appeared on EdinboroNow.com.

Q: Why did you run again?

A: I have a genuine interest in public service and people. I want to see this region be at the forefront of Pennsylvania. Erie is the hidden gem of Pennsylvania and is an untapped resource for all intents and purposes.

We need someone down there [Harrisburg] who has innovative ideas and who can supplement what’s going on here locally with state funding and try to find state means into the federal means in order to get more funding for the region. I’m looking to enhance the overall health and well-being of our area, and that’s why I’m running.

I’ve got a great track record and people can see what I’ve done for the district and what I’ve accomplished and I want to continue to do it at least for another term.

Q: What do you hope to accomplish?

A: I want to continue to focus on my priorities that I’ve been working on since I’ve been elected. Literally in 2013 when I took office, we hit the ground running. No other legislative office has come close to northwestern Pennsylvania with the type of constituent services that we provide here. Just from Jan. 1 of 2015 to now we’ve taken care of almost 20,000 people and helped them with state related issues. And that’s just the people we have on record.

We let the people know we are their gateway to Harrisburg and I want to make my legislative office a one stop shop for all your state government needs. I want to take care of people; that is exactly why I’m here and I want to keep focusing on that. Not only do I help on the human element of things, but I’m also passionate about animal abuse. I have a piece of animal abuse legislation out there that made national news and has come to national attention and I want to get that across the finish line too, but I need a little bit more time to do that.

Q: During your time as representative, what did you accomplish that you are most proud of?

A: I would definitely say on the legislative side of things, bringing attention to a national problem that we’re having that is the abuse of animals. It’s something I’m passionate about. I had no idea that when I introduced this bill it was going to cause this much of a ruckus here in PA and really start an animal rights movement. I’m really proud of that and I’m proud of ending the budget impasse.

I was one of 13 Democrats to break ranks to stop the 9 and a half month budget impasse and I’m very proud of that. I’m proud of working with the other side of the aisle in order to get the job done and I’m proud of delivering for the people of this region. It’s way easier to under promise and over deliver 100 percent of the time than to give somebody your word and not be able to fulfill that promise, so that’s why I never make a promise that I don’t keep.

Q: What is your vision for education in Pennsylvania?

A: I’ve been a big proponent of public education and what we’ve seen in the past few years is a $1 billion cut to public education. If you look at that, it’s had devastating effects on classrooms across Pennsylvania.

I’m a big supporter of education and getting the appropriate funding that we need. We’re looking at not only K-12 but also higher education. I fought tooth and nail to try to get the PASSHE schools additional funding this year and we were successful at doing that. Any investment in human capital is investment in our future and you (college students) are our future.

We have to have a skilled and educated workforce that can meet the demands of the 21st century workforce.

Q: Do you support the Fair Funding Formula for the commonwealth? Why or why not?

A: It’s an equal distribution of the funds that we have; it’s fair to school districts across the commonwealth and we’re not so blatantly picking winners and losers. We’re not giving all the suburban districts the money, which I have the suburban school districts, so obviously I love to see them be successful, but we can’t just give them all the resources and forget about the urban areas. It’s not fair and it’s got to be fairer and we’ve got to be on a more even playing field.

The Fair Funding Formula has tried to right the ship by doing that. It’s not a be-all and end-all for education funding problems, but it’s a start and it’s a marking point to where we need to move in the future.

Q: How would you increase transparency?

A: I think we’re a fairly transparent state. I’m one of the most transparent legislators out there, because I put out a weekly email blast and every time that I put up a vote, I make it public so the public doesn’t have to join any right-to-know requests and they don’t have to search for what I’m voting on.

I put it out there for the public to see; I put it on my website and everything I do is transparent. I think we’re a fairly transparent state. Are we perfect? No, but if you look at us in comparison to some of the others, we have the transparency laws in place. I’m not trying to hide anything [and] I make things easily accessible; you can see what I spent my money on, you see how I vote, I put it all out there and I have nothing to hide.

Q: The 2016 presidential election has divided many citizens on issues and discouraged bipartisanship. Additionally, the state had an extremely hard time compromising over the state budget last year — how do you aim to repair that relationship between parties?

A: I think that what the public doesn’t understand is that we get along far more than they see. They see us going at each other on the
hot button issues, but most of the time we’re on the same page. We’re voting on things of unanimous consent or putting up votes where it’s very bipartisan in nature.

The political divide has gotten extremely rough in this country and particularly in the commonwealth. That 9 and a half month budget impasse — I’m not even kidding — was the worst 9 and a half months of my life. I didn’t run for office to make people’s lives more difficult and I thought that the legislature was in fact doing that. It was almost at a point where I wasn’t sure if I was going to run for re- election or not, because I just had such a bad taste in my mouth.

That being said, I was one of the 13 Democrats to break party ranks and vote with the Republicans to end the impasse, so I have a fairly good relationship with my colleagues on the other side [of the party lines]. I’m a pretty moderate Democrat: I work from the center because that’s where real compromise is. People need to understand the art of compromise; not everybody should be able to get what they want 100 percent of the time. When both sides walk away feeling like they lost, that’s real compromise and that’s what I want to do. I want everything obviously, but I’m realistic about it. We’ve got to be realistic about what we can and cannot do. 

Dakota Palmer is The Voices Editor for The Spectator and she can be reached at voices.spectator@gmail.com

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