Senator Fontana speaks at the West End Veterans Memorial rededication on Veterans Day. The ceremony celebrated the holiday and the refurbishment of the monument. Originally constructed in 1944, the monument is located on Wabash Street, just outside the Carnegie Library West End branch.
Child Abuse Legislation
You can’t turn on the news, or open a newspaper today, without hearing about the Attorney General’s charges against former and current employees of Penn State University related to the sexual abuse of children. The charges and the events behind the charges are shocking and disturbing. And as much as we would like to go back and change what happened, we cannot. No matter what action we take today or tomorrow, we cannot change what happened to these children. We send our thoughts and prayers to the victims and their families. We can act, however, and take steps to provide additional protections to our children moving forward by passing Senate Bill 549 (SB 549).
I first introduced a version of this bill in September of 2005, shortly after I was elected. Through each and every version of it, I have worked with stakeholders – both those who are in favor of the proposed changes and those who had concerns. In that process, I have made concessions and changes to the bill. I have met with those groups that my colleagues have asked me to and my staff has spoken with each and every person who has contacted my office on this bill – to hear their story, to determine if we can address their concerns and to continue to improve this bill.
In the past three legislative sessions, the bill has died. This version, Senate Bill 549 (PN 652) was unanimously reported from the Aging & Youth Committee on May 24th. It was re-referred to the Senate Appropriations Committee on June 20th where it remains today. Senator Ward, the Chair of the committee, has remained involved in the discussions and negotiations on this legislation – and has advocated for its consideration and passage by the Senate Appropriations Committee. Past versions have been worked on in cooperation with Senator Vance’s office and Senator Orie’s office. This has been a bi-partisan effort all along.
That is what SB 549 and the drafted amendment to it does. It amends the Child Protective Services Law to address suspected abuse by school employees. The bill would lower the threshold for when suspected child abuse by a school employee must be reported and investigated. The bill also allows information from a report to be provided to a person’s employer if it relates to the employee’s suitability in the workplace. The bill removes any separate reporting procedures and would require that reports are made in the same way regardless of who the suspected perpetrator is or what the offense is to ensure that the child’s welfare is the first priority. The bill strengthens the immunity provisions for those individuals making reports, providing both civil and criminal immunity if the person participates in good faith in making a report (mandated or not), cooperating with an investigation, testifying in a proceeding, or referring a report to law enforcement.
I have been asked what difference SB 549 would have made in the Penn State case. If SB 549 were law, the graduate assistant’s responsibility would have been to contact police and/or child protective services immediately to report what he had seen.
If SB 549 were law, administrators would have been notified of the report, but would not have had a role in getting it to law enforcement or child protective services.
We should have already acted on this legislation – years ago. Each year that passes, I get more calls from parents whose children have been abused and understand they have no other recourse. What happened at Penn State is horrible, but there were laws in place that could have protected these children. We have an opportunity to make the laws we do have in place…better – and to protect more children with the passage of SB 549 and I will continue to advocate for that.
I am asking – begging you – to join me in this. Please, act now to protect our children.
Last, but not least, let me say this. You can no longer be silent either. If you know, or suspect, that a child is being abused – do not hesitate. Call 9-1-1 and report it to law enforcement. Reach out to DPW’s Child Protective Services at 1-800-932-0313. Contact Childhelp (non-profit agency that provides reporting numbers and counselors who can provide referrals) at 1-800-422-4453. Whatever you do, though, speak out!
Calls to Action on SB 549
SB 549 is not a knee-jerk reaction to what occurred at Penn State. It is not grandstanding. It is a well thought out work product that has been developed and improved over six and a half years. Its impact and import as it relates to Penn State has been featured in several news stories:
I have also had the opportunity to talk to several news outlets about the legislation, including Erin Burnett, OutFront (CNN), Kyra Phillips (CNN) and Dom Giordano (WPHT 1210).
I have also risen on the Senate floor, calling on my colleagues to move SB 549 and to protect our children now. Text Version Here
Small Business Assistance
The final Small Business Development Outreach Day is scheduled for Tuesday, December 13th at my Kennedy Township office (Kenmawr Plaza).
As you may know, I have been partnering with the University of Pittsburgh Small Business Development Center (SBDC) to offer a monthly opportunity for constituents to meet with SBDC Client Services Liaison John Dobransky. This service provides small business owners, as well as those considering starting their own business, with the education, information, and tools they need to build their businesses. Consultations are one-on-one, free, and confidential.
Mr. Dobransky will be available in the Kennedy Township office between 10:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m. To schedule an appointment, contact Mr. Dobransky at 412-624-2290.
IGA Beechview Launches Website
The new Market on Broadway IGA has launched a new website. Customers will be able to view e-coupons and product advertisements and receive news updates from the store’s management. The website also will feature various recipes, allow shoppers to manage an online shopping list and provide customers the chance to communicate with the store by expressing opinions in a shopper experience survey.
The Market on Broadway IGA opened its doors for the first time on Wednesday, September 14th. The store is located at 1616 Broadway Avenue in Beechview.
Environmental Education Grants Available
The Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) is now accepting applications for 2012 Environmental Education Grants. These grants are used to fund educational curriculum integration programs, curriculum revision projects, outdoor learning resource projects, and environmental literacy planning and programming. Public and private schools, conservation and education organizations, colleges and universities, non-profits, businesses, and municipalities are all eligible to apply.
Applicants are encouraged to integrate STEM Education (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) into their environmental education programs. Organizations interested in providing educational programs on brownfield redevelopment, green space development, air quality, reducing watershed pollution and climate change should consider this grant opportunity.
Applicants interested in developing environmental education programs can request up to $7,500. Applications are available online. The deadline to apply is December 16, 2011.
AmeriCorps State Grants Available
The AmeriCorps State program has announced available funds for projects that will have a positive impact on local communities. Eligible applicants include public or private nonprofits, community and faith-based organizations, institutions of higher education, government agencies and partnerships.
AmeriCorps grants support the efforts of organizations to recruit and deploy AmeriCorps members and volunteers to address unmet community needs. These competitive grants will be awarded to organizations that best identify problems and demonstrate how deploying AmeriCorps members and community volunteers will produce significant impacts for the community. Maximum awards are $13,300 per Member Service Year requested and you must request at least 10 Member Service Years.
If you are a member of an organization that may be eligible for this grant, you can read the announcement here and view the requirements and guidelines. The deadline for applying is December 5, 2011 at 5:00 p.m. For more information on this grant, you can contact the office via e-mail at email@example.com.
Supporting the Food Bank
More than two million Pennsylvanians struggle with hunger and do not have enough money to buy food for themselves or their families. Hunger in Pennsylvania, and all across America, is a problem we must solve. Having worked with the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank over the years, donating food from my annual FontanaFest and sponsoring a number of food drives, I know how much their efforts mean to those in need. They need continuous support though, as the number of new households they service continues to rise.
Did You Know…
Approximately 30% of the people served by the Greater Pittsburgh Food Bank are children.
If you have the ability to donate, you can call the Greater Pittsburgh Food Bank at 412-460-FOOD (3663) or visit their donations page on their website, www.pittsburghfoodbank.org.
In addition to the Food Bank, there is also a program available in the Commonwealth to insure Pennsylvanians have access to nutritious food. The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) provides grocery debit cards to households whose net incomes qualify. To learn about eligibility requirements you may visit the website or please contact any one of my district offices and we would be happy to assist.
Free Thanksgiving Dinner
Grace Church and Redeemer of the Mount will prepare and serve a complete Thanksgiving dinner on Thanksgiving Day at 319 West Sycamore Street in Mt. Washington. The free meal will be served at noon. Advance reservations are requested by 5:00 p.m. on Monday, November 21st. Rides will be available for anyone with a 15211 zip code but need to be requested in advance. There is no charge for the rides but donations will be accepted.
For more information or to make a dinner reservation, please call the Grace Church office at 412-381-6020.
Phone Cards for Overseas Troops
Allegheny County is collecting international phone cards through Wednesday, December 10th for U.S. troops who are stationed overseas. Residents may donate international phone cards weekdays between 8:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. at the County Executive’s Office in Room 101 of the County Courthouse as well as the Boyce, North and South Park offices. Soldiers & Sailors Memorial Hall & Museum is also accepting international phone cards from 10:00 a.m. through 4:00 p.m. Monday through Saturday.
Donated phone cards will be distributed among the 171st Air Refueling Wing, 911th Airlift Wing, and 316th Regional Readiness Command.
For additional information please call 412-350-5929.
Gifts for Children in Need
If you are able and interested in helping a child receive a meaningful gift this holiday season, the Allegheny County Department of Human Services (DHS) Holiday Project is a great way to participate. All of the children who receive gifts through the Holiday Project are from families that are receiving child welfare services through the DHS Office of Children, Youth and Families, the county agency charged with protecting children from abuse and neglect.
The DHS Holiday Project website provides the information needed to contribute a gift or monetary donation as well as a list of conveniently located gift drop off locations throughout the county and the days and times those locations are open. If you are not sure what gifts are needed, the site also provides a list of the hottest gifts and toys for boys and girls of all ages.
The DHS Holiday Project runs through Monday, December 5th and both individuals and businesses are encouraged to participate. For any questions regarding the project, please call 412-350-3428 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
High School Sports Rundown
The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette this week included a feature on Montour senior quarterback Dillon Buechel. Buechel joined elite company in Montour’s quarterfinal win over West Mifflin, becoming one of only six WPIAL quarterbacks in history to pass for over 6,000 yards.
Week 9 High School Football Highlights
- Montour defeated West Mifflin 31-7 in a WPIAL Class AAA Quarterfinal game. Dillon Buechel completed 12 of 19 passes for 175 yards and three touchdowns. He hooked up with Darren Massey on two scores and threw a 6-yard touchdown pass to Aaron Reed. Julian Durden rushed for 130 yards and scored on a 6-yard run. Montour will face Central Valley in the Semifinals.
- Seton La-Salle improved to 11-0 with a 21-13 win over South Fayette in a WPIAL Class AA Quarterfinal game. Kevin Hart led the way for the Rebels with 269 yards rushing and two touchdowns. Nick Sywyj returned an interception 29 yards for a touchdown in the win. Seton La-Salle will face another 11-0 team, Jeanette, in a WPIAL Class AA Semifinal game.
- Lenny Williams threw four touchdown passes and rushed for another in a 40-0 Sto-Rox win over Brentwood in a WPIAL Class A Quarterfinal game. Williams finished with 267 yards passing and threw touchdown passes to four different receivers – Kevin Hooper, Dontez Ford, Brendan Blair, and Deysean Rippy. With the win, Sto-Rox improved to 11-0 on the season and will face another 11-0 team, Bishop Canevin in a WPIAL Class A Semifinal game.
- Bishop Canevin improved to 11-0 with a 16-6 win over Fort Cherry in a WPIAL Class A Quarterfinal game. Kevin Mechas connected with Bobby Gustine on a 28-yard touchdown pass to give Bishop Canevin a 10-0 lead. Leading 10-6 in the fourth quarter, Casey McCaffrey scored on a two-yard run to ice the game. Mechas finished with 138 yards passing and Gustine had seven receptions for 105 yards.
(From the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)
For anyone interested in following their local team in the playoffs, here’s a Semifinal schedule:
Friday, November 18th
Class AAA Semifinals – Montour (9-2) vs. Central Valley (11-0) – 7:30 p.m. @ Ambridge
Class AA Semifinals – Seton La-Salle (11-0) vs. Jeannette (11-0) – 7:30 p.m. @ Eliz. Forward
Class A Semifinals – Sto-Rox (11-0) vs. Bishop Canevin (11-0) – 7:30 p.m. @ Moon
Carnegie Borough was incorporated on March 1, 1894 when the boroughs of Mansfield and Chartiers merged. The new borough was named after Andrew Carnegie in return for his gift of building Carnegie High School and the Andrew Carnegie Free Library and Music Hall.
Offices of State Senator Wayne D. Fontana