State Rep. Marcy Toepel, R-147th Dist., says she's enjoyed her years in office, and now it's time for her to start a new chapter.
Toepel, who will have been in office 10½ years when her current term is completed at the end of 2020, announced earlier that she won't be running for re-election.
"I've been thinking about it for the last year and decided that I think it's time for me to move on to the next chapter of my life," Toepel said during a recent interview.
And what is that next chapter?
"I don't know yet," Toepel replied with a laugh.
"I'm just gonna take things a little easier and enjoy life and my grandchildren and my family," said the mother of five children and grandmother to 12.
"In this job, you miss a lot of family time," she said, "so I think I have some catching up to do."
She made the announcement now because election campaigns for next year's elections are about to begin, she said.
"If you're not gonna run, you need to let people know so that other candidates can come out," she said.
Toepel, who is a Boyertown Area High School graduate, and her husband, Mark, live in Douglass Township, Montgomery County.
Before being elected to the Pennsylvania House of Representatives, she worked 14 years for Montgomery County, where she was first deputy to the Montgomery County Clerk of Courts, then to the Montgomery County Recorder of Deeds.
She has also served on Boyertown Area School Board and is a former PTA president and volunteer coach and referee. Before being employed by the county, she worked in private business.
"Marcy has focused her legislative efforts on property tax reform, cutting government waste, public safety and protection of open space while also supporting the elimination of unreasonable regulations for job creators," information on her website says.
"I've gotten to do some things I never thought I'd have the opportunity to be involved in," Toepel said.
"I've always been a strong advocate for victims of crime, and children in particular," she said.
She said she was proud to be part of making new laws in the wake of the Jerry Sandusky case increasing the penalties for child pornography.
Another of her legislative highlights was the Brad Fox Law, she said.
The law is named for Plymouth Township Police Officer Brad Fox who was killed in 2012 with a gun purchased in a straw purchase. A straw purchase happens when someone who cannot legally purchase a gun gets one through someone else who purchases it for them. The Brad Fox Law sets a five-year minimum sentence for anyone convicted of a second or more straw purchase.
"That one got national attention," Toepel said.
One of the bills she worked the longest on before seeing it passed was to get casino tax money from the Valley Forge Casino returned to Montgomery County, she said. The money previously went to the state.
"Seventy-five percent goes to our county parks and trails. That's over a million dollars a year," she said, "and then 25 percent goes to child advocacy centers and domestic violence shelters in Montgomery County and that's hundreds of thousands of dollars for each of those every year."
A bill she proposed that was passed in the House of Representatives and now is in the Pennsylvania Senate would require financial settlements made between state agencies or departments and individuals to be posted on the PennWATCH data portal, Toepel said.
"State government spending is posted there, so the settlements would be posted there as well, so that would be open to public scrutiny," she said. "We would no longer have those settlements made in secret."
The amount of the settlement, the date it was reached and the type of settlement it was would have to be posted, she said.
The proposed law is as a result of sexual harassment settlements, she said.
"Right now, you could probably get more information through a right-to-know request, but most people wouldn't know to make the request," Toepel said.
The proposed law would help people know where to look, she said.
The posting would not include persons' names in order to protect victims, she said.
"There would be some new transparency in what certain state agencies are paying for what types of settlements," she said.
The state enters into thousands of settlements a year, many of which are are for good reasons, but more transparency is needed, she said.
After years of discussion about property tax reform, Toepel said she's hoping the Legislature will be voting on it next year.
Earlier this month, a group of lawmakers from both political parties, the Senate, the House of Representatives and representatives of the Governor's office released a list of five different proposals for property tax reform.
"My preference is total elimination of property taxes and a shift to other taxes," Toepel said. "We'll see if that's possible."
The property tax reform proposals would not affect county or municipal property taxes and are only for school taxes, she said.
"That's the big one," she said. "That's the budget buster."
"During her tenure, Toepel has stood firm on holding the line on taxes and has supported efforts that have resulted in a 39% increase in K-12 education spending over the past decade," her retirement announcement said.
The increases in education funding without tax hikes was made possible by shifting some funds, cutting back in some areas and increased revenue from the economic turnaround, Toepel said.
More can be done, though, she said, such as putting money that's been held over in state accounts into education funds.
"I don't think we should ever ask taxpayers to pay more money when we're sitting on funds," she said.
Toepel, who since November of 2016 has been the majority chairman of the House Republican Caucus, is the first woman from Montgomery County to serve in a Pennsylvania House of Representatives leadership position.
"That's been an honor to be selected by my colleagues to serve in that role," she said.
"We caucus every bill before we vote on it, so I am the facilitator of those meetings," Toepel said. The position also includes being a liaison between leadership and rank and file members, communicating vote schedules and movements of bills, and distributing analysis of bills to be voted on, she said.
The 147th Legislative District includes Douglass, Lower Frederick, Lower Salford, Marlborough, New Hanover, Upper Frederick, Upper Pottsgrove, Upper Salford and West Pottsgrove townships, along with Green Lane and Schwenksville boroughs.
"I've loved the job very much. It's been fascinating and challenging, and I've learned so much. It's the greatest job I've had in my lifetime and it's been an honor and a privilege to serve the residents of the 147th Legislative District," Toepel said, "and I have one more year to do it."