Mike Folmer may be best known for the 87 year old, landmark produce store that bore his family name in Lebanon, Pennsylvania. But it’s from a lifetime of living and working in the Lebanon community that he’s maintained a solid reputation as a civic leader and businessman. Much of Mike’s early life was spent defying the odds. With the help of a next door neighbor, a gifted reading and speech teacher, Mike overcame a significant speech impediment – a defining victory in his young life. As a college student at Grace College in Winona Lake, Indiana, Mike paid tuition by selling produce door-to-door in a converted pick-up truck from his father’s business. It was the first of many successes as an entrepreneur.
Mike is also cancer survivor, overcoming non-Hodkins lymphoma while serving as a sitting State Senator. During his chemotherapy treatments and two surgeries, Mike didn’t miss a day of voting during Senate Session.
Mike received a degree in History from Grace College in 1978. For nearly thirty years, Mike’s passion for people has earned him the trust and loyalty of his customers, clients, and constituents. As a financial consultant, sales manager, and public servant, honesty and professionalism have defined his life’s work. Mike is a founding member of the Constitutional Organization of Liberty, a community-wide educational project designed to promote awareness of America’s founding principles. In 1986, Mike pulled an upset victory to Lebanon City Council campaigning as a conservative Democrat (he would later follow Ronald Reagan’s example by re-registering as a Republican). As the Council’s Director of Public Safety, Mike fought excessive contract demands and introduced a plan to trim hundreds of thousands of dollars from the cash strapped community’s annual budget. Mike honored a term-limits pledge, retiring after just one term in office. Two decades later, running on a “Promise to Pennsylvania,” a pledge to advance government and political reform, spending and tax reform, and legal and labor law reform, Mike pulled another upset victory to win his seat in the Pennsylvania State Senate. He was reelected to a second term in 2010. Although planning to leave the Senate after three terms, Mike was prevailed upon by citizens to seek a fourth term — a decision he pondered and prayed over for months before agreeing to seek a fourth term.
Another reason to seek a fourth term was Senator Folmer’s signature accomplishment: bringing medical cannabis to Pennsylvania so patients — especially parents of children afflicted with seizures and other diseases — would have another arrow in their quivers to fight their medical conditions. During this effort, both Republicans and Democrats recognized and marveled how Senator Folmer “changed hearts and minds, one Member at a time.” Senator Folmer is committed to seeing Pennsylvania’s program fully implemented after being the lead champion in securing its passage in 2016. While he and other advocates hope medical cannabis will be up and running in 2018, there are a number of issues that will need to be addressed regulatorily and perhaps legislatively.
Additionally, Senator Folmer waited eight years to chair the Senate State Government Committee where many reform measures are referred and he would like eight years as chair of this key Committee. During his two and a half years as State Government Committee Chair, Senator Folmer has reported dozens of bills to the full Senate and a number of these measures have become law, including: Election Code reforms that make it easier for third party and independent candidates to get on election ballots, making the Office of Inspector General more independent, requiring “Paid for with Pennsylvania Taxpayers Dollars” for all Commonwealth advertisements, giving taxpayers more information on state contracts (including collective bargaining agreements) before they’re signed, and updating the State Civil Service law. Senator Folmer looks forward to advancing other reforms.
Senator Folmer is also a key advocate of ongoing efforts to eliminate school property taxes by shifting to sales and personal income taxes. Working with other Republican and Democratic legislators, this bipartisan plan fell just one vote shy of passing the Senate at the end of 2015 and Senator Folmer has continued to push for passage of these much-needed and long-overdue reforms. Both elected officials and grassroots advocates will attest to Mike’s leadership on this important issue.
Beyond his work as chair of the Senate State Government Committee, Senator Folmer has become a recognized leader on a myriad of other issues by both Republicans and Democrats. People know whenever “Citizen Mike” is involved, he’ll ask the tough questions, stand up for people, and fight to ensure his oath of office to “support, obey and defend the Constitution of the United States and the Constitution of this Commonwealth . . . with fidelity.” Mike as carried and referred to his copy of both Constitutions throughout his time in the Senate, which is why he isn’t a member of the legislative pension program, the legislative health care plan, and why he returns his automatic legislative cost of living increase to the State Treasury with a monthly personal check.
Senator Folmer has also been able to bring significant reforms to Pennsylvania outside his role as Senate State Government Committee chair. These laws include bringing model Civil Asset Reform to Pennsylvania, establishing rights for foster children and foster parents, strengthening child custody rights for military personnel deployed overseas, clarifying powers and duties of police officers employed at state military institutions like Fort Indiantown Gap, and better protecting farmers from bioterrorism.
Prior to serving as Chairman of the State Government Committee, Senator Folmer also served as Chairman of the Senate Communications & Technology Committee and as Chair of the Senate Education Committee. While continuing to serve on these committees, Mike’s other committee assignments include Inter-Governmental Operations, Labor & Industry, and Rules.
Mike and his wife, Shelia, reside in Lebanon City and have two grown children and seven grandchildren.