Rep. Miller discusses local, national issues with BHS students


Grace Hampton

State Rep. Dan Miller discussed local and national issues with members of the debate club and newspaper staff on Friday.

In a student forum on Friday, state Rep. Dan Miller (D) met with students from Baldwin’s debate club and newspaper staff to answer questions they had about local and national politics.

One topic Miller addressed was the recent freedom of speech debate, as a result of the ban placed on former President Donald Trump’s Twitter and Facebook accounts following the insurrection of the Capitol. 

“Free speech is still important to our country. So that’s a challenge for us and we have to be careful,” Miller said. “We see sometimes that people think they have the right to Twitter and a right to Facebook. In most cases you don’t. There’s a difference between you having the right to come in public to express yourself and dissent, and saying anything you want and causing hysteria.”

Miller also discussed the impact of COVID-19 on business and the mitigation efforts imposed by Gov. Tom Wolf.  He said he has for the most part agreed with the direction the governor has taken on dealing with the pandemic, but still thinks more needs to be done to support businesses.

“If the government cares enough to shut you down, the government should care enough to keep you afloat. Nobody should be satisfied, but hopefully the worst of it is behind us,” Miller said. “We will be dealing with the ramifications for the next three to six years.”

Miller also addressed the pandemic’s impact on schools and the struggle to give all students equal opportunities and access to education.  He expressed concerns about the inequality among school districts, as some have been able to deal with virtual and hybrid plans better than others. 

“I wrote a bill that would require the state to fund the computer costs and online accessibility for every child who falls below the poverty line,” Miller said.

Miller said the key to a good education starts with investing in kids early on, so that they may have a support system to learn and grow. 

“The federal government gives little to public education. The federal government used to provide almost 50 percent and now it’s less than 8 percent,” Miller said. 

Miller went on to discuss environmental issues, such as fracking, an issue frequently brought up during the presidential campaign. 

He said that he does not wish to completely close up on fracking, but he wrote a bill that requires fracking companies to provide full disclosure on everything they do. 

“It is hard to understand the health risks of fracking when companies do not tell us what their processes are,” Miller said. 

Miller did note that the state is taking steps to try to find more clean energy sources, which has led to the shutdown of many nuclear power plants. 

“The problem is that nuclear power is carbon-free energy, even though it has other waste. So the dependence on natural gas will go up unless there is a real investment into another option. And the state just does not have the funds to do so,” Miller said, mentioning the need for federal support for renewable energy growth.

Although the issues of fracking and energy are yet to be resolved, Miller applauded Pittsburgh’s significant steps in improving local water quality. 

“Pittsburgh has taken great strides since our grandparents had to go to work with the soot and pollution,” Miller said. “But our environmental protection work is a shell compared to what it used to be 15 years ago.”