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Legislative Update

As I write this, the Senate is currently in its last scheduled session week of 2011. There are many bills on a wide variety of issues that are still being deliberated, but very few of them will be voted on before the end of the calendar year. Following is a quick summary of several bills that the Senate is considering this week – they are also bills that constituents have expressed an interest in:

Senate Resolution 250 (SR 250) establishes a bi-cameral, bi-partisan Task Force on Child Protection. The group will review current laws and procedures relating to the reporting of child abuse and the protection of the health and safety of children throughout the Commonwealth, and will make recommendations as to how that system can be improved. As you know, legislation that I first introduced back in September, 2005, Senate Bill 549 (SB 549), would change the requirements and process for reporting and investigating child abuse by school employees. The Senate Republican leadership has ignored multiple requests to move this legislation forward, even with the press and attention given to this issue by the charges against Jerry Sandusky. It is my hope that the Task Force will incorporate the legislation into its recommendations.

House Bill 934 (HB 934) would require every voter to present proof of identification when appearing to vote. Current law only requires identification when a voter appears to vote in an election district for the first time. This bill will ultimately make it more difficult for legally registered voters to cast a ballot. It is a solution to a problem that does not exist. We have safeguards already in place to ensure the integrity of elections. Currently, prior to voting in an election, voters are required to provide a signature that is matched against a signature on file to determine authenticity. As elected officials, we should inform our constituents on issues to the best of our abilities and encourage them to vote, not make it difficult for them.

PennDotSenate Bill 344 (SB 344) authorizes public-private partnerships (P3) for transportation facilities of the Department of Transportation or of proprietary public entities. The development entity would be entitled to receive all, or a portion of, the revenue of the transportation facility in return for providing transportation-related services. These services may include operations and maintenance, revenue collection, user fee collection or enforcement, design, construction, and development and other activities that enhance traffic throughput, reduce congestion, improve safety, or otherwise manage or improve a facility. An independent board would evaluate and approve or deny requests for P3s and PennDOT would retain oversight and monitoring responsibilities for any partnerships. Some issues remain unresolved so there will be continued discussion (and most likely additional amendments) about prevailing wage and displaced workers.

House Bill 169 (HB 169) amends the Local Option Small Games of Chance Act by clarifying several definitions, details on prize limits, proceeds for club licensees, as well as specifications for enforcement and penalties. Currently, non-profits are permitted to offer small games of chance to raise funds for the promotion of charitable or civic programs. This bill expands those opportunities and allows them to compete with gaming in the Commonwealth, while also adding additional responsibilities to licensees.

As always, I look forward to communication with you on these and other issues that are of interest and importance to you – and welcome your comments.

Update on PA Limited Distilleries, Beer Sales

Last week I wrote about House Bill 242 (HB 242) which changes the Liquor Code to provide consumers greater access while encouraging the creation of businesses. I am pleased to report that the legislation passed the Senate and that the bill now goes to the Governor for his signature.

HB 242 will allow distilleries producing under 100,000 gallons of spirits to sell distilled spirits to the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board (LCB), other licensees, and the general public. This bill also allows beer distributors to expand their hours on Sundays to 9:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. Beer distributors had been allowed to operate only from the hours of noon to 5:00 p.m. on Sundays. Also, licensees that offer meals will be allowed to serve alcohol on Sundays beginning at 9:00 a.m. instead of 11:00 a.m.

PennDOT Enhances Driver’s Licenses

Driver's LicenseLast week, PennDOT announced it has added a new, state-of-the-art security feature for Pennsylvania Driver’s Licenses and Photo IDs. The new security feature is a black and white hologram wherein “PA” sits inside the Keystone symbol surrounded by a circle. This new security feature is purposely visible in order to allow bars, banks, law enforcement and others the ability to perform a quick check to ensure that the license or ID they are looking at is real. Pennsylvania is the first state in the United States to use this new security feature.

You are not required to take any action since driver’s licenses and identification cards are issued on a four-year cycle. At the time when your license/ID card is due to be renewed, you will receive a license/ID card with the new security feature. If you do not wish to wait until your driver’s license or ID card is due for renewal and wish to receive an enhanced license/ID card before then, you can complete form DL-80 (Application for Change/Correction/ Replacement of a Non-Commercial Driver’s License) or form DL-80CD (Application to Replace/Correct a Commercial Driver’s License) and pay the applicable fee. Applications can be downloaded from PennDOT's Driver and Vehicle Services website. You can also visit one of my district offices to pick up this form.

Property Tax/Rent Rebate Application Deadline Approaching

Property Tax/Rent RebateThe Pennsylvania Property Tax/Rent Rebate application deadline is December 31st. If you or someone you know believes they may be eligible, please contact one of my district offices for assistance. There is no need to pay somebody to help you with your application. My staff can help you determine whether you are eligible and provide assistance completing and submitting the application. You can download a claim form (PA-1000) by visiting www.PaPropertyTaxRelief.com.

The Property Tax and Rent Rebate program benefits Pennsylvanians who are 65 years old and older, widows and widowers age 50 and older, and people with permanent disabilities age 18 and older. The income limit is $35,000 a year for homeowners and $15,000 a year for renters, with half of Social Security income excluded. Seniors living in Pittsburgh with incomes under $30,000 are eligible for a supplemental property tax rebate of up to $325 on top of the standard rebate, making the maximum rebate $975. Visit the website above for income eligibility details or contact my office.

Veterans Reminded to Search for Unclaimed Property

The Pennsylvania Treasury holds more than $300,000 in unclaimed property that belongs to veterans, active duty personnel, and military support organizations. I encourage members and their families to search the Treasury’s free unclaimed property database at www.patreasury.gov or by calling 1-800-222-2046. My staff can help you process your unclaimed property form and provide additional assistance.

Each year, the Treasury receives millions of dollars in unclaimed property, including abandoned bank accounts, forgotten stocks, uncashed checks, contents of safe deposit boxes, and much more. The public can search for property and claim what is rightfully theirs- for free. Since January 2009, the department has returned approximately $264 million in unclaimed property to the rightful owners.

Did You Know…

Did you know that approximately one in ten Pennsylvanians have unclaimed property? In 2010 alone the Treasury returned $99 million to more than 72,000 owners.

Dormont Double Feature

Hollywood TheaterFriends of the Hollywood Theater in Dormont are showing a Pittsburgh double feature on Friday, December 16th beginning at 7:00 p.m. with “Pittsburgh From the Air” followed by an encore presentation of “My Tale of Two Cities.”

“Pittsburgh From the Air” is a WQED production that takes viewers on an aerial sightseeing tour of some of the most visually stunning attractions in our region. “My Tale of Two Cities” was produced by filmmaker and Pittsburgh-native Carl Kurlander. It captures the timely, inspiring resurgence of the city of Pittsburgh – the real life “Mister Rogers Neighborhood” – while also exploring a more universal story about how we must confront our past in order to move on to our future.

There will also be a panel discussion after the films that will include Darryl Ford Williams (Vice President of Content for WQED), David Newell (Mr. McFeely), Carl Kurlander (filmmaker), and Stephanie Dangel Reiter (Producer of My Tale of two Cities). Tickets for the double feature are $7 and can be purchased in advance by visiting www.showclix.com. For more information, please visit the Friends of the Hollywood Theater website. The Hollywood Theater is located at 1449 Potomac Avenue in Dormont.

Hollywood Theater's December Schedule is now available!

High School Sports Update

Montour reached the PIAA Class AAA State Semifinals before losing a tough game, 41-32, to Bishop McDevitt. Montour wide receiver Darren Massey finished the game with 200 yards receiving, setting a new PIAA Class AAA record for most receiving yards in a PIAA playoff game. Quarterback Dillon Buechel passed for 324 yards in the loss. Montour finished the season with a record of 12-3 and won the WPIAL Class AAA championship.

Congratulations to the Montour football team on a tremendous season!

Matt Freed /Post-Gazette
Montour senior Aaron Reed carries the football after hauling in a pass against Grove City in a PIAA Class AAA quarterfinal at North Allegheny High School

Post-Gazette Features Montour’s Unsung Heroes

Last week the Post-Gazette featured Montour football players who helped the team reach the state semifinals.

Chartiers Valley Boys Basketball Featured

Last week the Post-Gazette previewed the 2011-2012 Chartiers Valley Boys Basketball team, looking to reach another WPIAL Championship Game.

High School Athlete of the Week

Congratulations to Aaron Reed, a senior linebacker/tight end on the Montour football team, on being named the “Athlete of the Week” by the Post-Gazette last week.

High School Soccer All-Stars

Congratulations to Montour’s Nathan Dearth and Justin Menni, Chartiers Valley’s Justin Dunbar, Brentwood’s Josh Mackin, Seton-La Salle’s Ty Balzer, and Baldwin’s Colin Michalski on being named Boys High School Soccer All-Stars by the Post-Gazette.

Fontana Fact

Old St. Luke’s Church Scott Township was founded June 29, 1861 when a division of Upper St. Clair Township was confirmed by decree of court. One of the earliest permanent settlers of the area was Major William Lea, who received a land grant from King George III as payment for his service in the French and Indian War. Per Major Lea’s will, a parcel of land was left for the use of a church. Old St. Luke’s Church is now one of Scott Township’s most famous landmarks.

Offices of State Senator Wayne D. Fontana

 
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