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Senator Fontana addresses the First Friday group at the Allegheny Conference on Community Development’s monthly meeting. The Senator and two of his colleagues presented details on the PA Works plan to the organization and business leaders in attendance for their input and feedback.

Governor's Budget Proposal

Just a few hours ago, Governor Corbett presented his budget proposal to the General Assembly. Members received the proposal right before the address and so I am just now beginning to look at the budget and review the impact that this proposal will have on the district. I did provide an immediate response to the address, that I wished to share with you as well.

FONTANA SAYS BUDGET ALL ABOUT PRIORITIES

As I delve into this budget further, I will certainly pass on information regarding its contents and my thoughts on the proposals. As always, I look forward to hearing from you on this and other issues that are of interest and importance to you.

PA Works

Last week, I told you about the launch of PA Works, a jobs plan crafted by the Senate Democrats, that could result in 28,000 new jobs, $2 billion in private investment and a general fund savings of $150 million. Just this past Friday, I had the opportunity to share the plan with members of the Allegheny Conference on Community Development and was pleased by the feedback. Detail on the small business component of the plan was in last week’s News & Views. This week, the focus is on the second component – workforce development.

A recent report from the U.S. Department of Education found that only 20% of our current workforce holds the skills that 60% of our 20th century economy requires. When companies make location or relocation decisions, often a trained workforce can be as important as any other factor. If we want to compete in a national and global economy, a well-trained workforce is absolutely essential.

The proposal to create a world class workforce includes four separate bills. The first would create a one-stop system for workforce investment and education services by consolidating all such programs in the Department of Labor & Industry. This restructuring would also allow PA to fully leverage federal subsidies.

The “Train to Work PA” program is an individual, employer-driven program coordinated through the Workforce Investment Board and is based on the successful Georgia Works Program. It partially subsidizes wages of employees receiving on-the-job training for positions that could lead to permanent employment. Priority for participation in the program would be given to those individuals who are currently receiving unemployment benefits and would be funded through the use of federal dislocated worker funds.

The “Shared Work PA” program has been modeled on a successful program in Missouri. It would enable employers to avoid layoffs by reducing hours and wages for employees. The employees would then be able to collect a portion of unemployment benefits to make up for the reduced wages.

Finally, PA has already become a world leader in green energy investment, but we need to ensure a properly trained clean energy workforce. Legislation would allocate $15 million over three years for grants to eligible entities to offer job training in “green” industries. The funding for the program would come from a reallocation of unused funds in the Pollution Control Technology Projects.

A recent report in our Commonwealth details the manufacturing industry's need for a skilled and highly trained workforce. There are 72,000 individuals working in this field as precision machinists and industrial maintenance technicians in Pennsylvania. The PA Center for Advanced Manufacturing Careers estimates that employers will need between 15,000 and 17,000 more during the next decade. With targeted investment in programs that we know work, and redeployment of unused program funds, we can take a substantial step in addressing our Commonwealth’s workforce needs.

Spring Job Fair

As a reminder, Community College of Allegheny County’s (CCAC) spring Job Fair is tomorrow (March 9th). The Job Fair is being held at CCAC’s South Campus, Building “B”, 4th Floor Commons. This is a great opportunity for those who are unemployed, or anyone simply looking for a different job, to see what’s out there. There will be plenty of employers participating in the event and they will be looking to fill jobs immediately. The Job Fair is free and open to the public. I recommend bringing plenty of resumes to hand out and dressing professionally. Call 412-469-6214 for more information on the Job Fair. CCAC’s South Campus is located at 1750 Clairton Road in West Mifflin.

FireVEST Scholarships

www.ccac.edu/ Anyone interested in serving their community as a volunteer firefighter should consider applying for a Fire Volunteer Education, Service and Training (FireVEST) scholarship. A total of 200 full scholarships will be made available for an associate's degree or certificate program at Community College of Allegheny County (CCAC), in addition to training at the Allegheny County Fire Academy. Of the 200 scholarships, 150 will be reserved for new recruits who commit to five years of service, and 50 scholarships will go to current volunteers who commit to five additional years of service.

Scholarship applicants must be residents of Allegheny County and either be a current volunteer or join a volunteer fire department in Allegheny County. Applicants must apply and be accepted to CCAC, file for federal and state financial aid, and complete the financial aid process on time and in its entirety. FireVEST scholarship recipients can enroll in any of CCAC's more than 170 academic programs.

Scholarship applications are available on CCAC's web site (search keyword "FireVEST"), through CCAC campus and center admissions offices, or by contacting the Allegheny County Fire Academy at 412-931-3158 ext. 5. The deadline to apply for the fall semester is May 15th.

Pennsylvania Environmental Public Health Tracking Program (EPHTN) New State Website Tracks Environmental Health Info

A new Department of Health website allows the public to track health challenges and environmental-related diseases such as asthma and air quality. The Pennsylvania Environmental Public Health Tracking Program (EPHTN) website will integrate health and environmental data and provide information to address public health concerns, educating the public about ways to protect themselves from possible contamination and disease.

The PA EPHTN is part of a national initiative supported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to help states gather more information about the environment’s impact on health. The website will give you information and data on asthma, cancer, lead poisoning, air quality, water quality and more. The University of Pittsburgh’s Graduate School of Public Health is playing a role in the program by helping the state research asthma. Additional health related topics will be added in the near future. I am confident that this website can be used as a tool for local and state agencies to quickly identify and respond to possible threats. For more information and to view data statewide visit the PA EPHTN website.

Register to Vote for the Primary Elections

Are you registered to vote? If you’re not and want to participate in Pennsylvania’s primary election on May 17th, you can still register to vote between now and April 19th. Voter registration applications are available on my website and in my district offices. Applications are also available through the Department of State at VotesPA.com. The website also has additional voting information, including demonstrations of voting systems.

VotesPA To be eligible to register to vote in the May primary, you must be a citizen of the U.S. for at least one month before the primary; a resident of Pennsylvania and the election district in which you wish to register and vote for at least 30 days before the primary; and be at least 18 years of age on or before the day of the primary election.

Around the District

This past week began in Harrisburg with several committee meetings and even more meetings with constituents and organizations from the district. The Community, Economic & Recreational Development Committee held a confirmation hearing for Secretary-Nominee C. Alan Walker. The committee also moved two bills, including SR 25 which I jointly sponsored, and held a public hearing on the state’s efforts to address Problem Gambling.

The Law & Justice Committee also met with the nominee for Commander of the PA State Police, Frank Noonan. I also had the opportunity to meet with representatives from DeVry University, which has a Pittsburgh campus, and officials from the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh. Work also continued on the PA Works plan crafted by the Senate Democratic Caucus.

Back in the district, I spoke with the operator and partner of the IGA Market on Broadway about the upcoming community meeting. If you have not already RSVP’d to attend the 7 p.m. meeting on Wednesday, April 6th, please do so now. It’s your opportunity to get a sneak peek inside the new store.

As noted above, I also had the opportunity to present the PA Works  to the Allegheny Conference on Community Development on Friday and to talk with and hear from many of the organizations and companies in attendance about their thoughts on the plan. I look forward to that continued dialogue.

I also toured Allegheny Landing and spoke with the organizers of that project about their future plans and needs, spoke with 113 Industries about their next steps with the re-use of the old Seagate building, and had several meetings that included updates on economic development projects in the district.

Fontana Fact

Did you know the Heinz industrial plant in Pittsburgh had a roof garden for employees? The garden was created on the company’s North Side factory roof, and provided a place for female employees to relax and get some fresh air. The roof garden was made up of open-air flower beds, a conservatory for ferns and palms, seats, fountains and awnings. The factory was constructed in the late 1800’s. Today the Heinz 57 Center in downtown Pittsburgh holds a beautiful roof garden, which is also referred to as a urban “roofscape” (you can view pictures of the garden by visiting GreenRoofs.com).

Offices of State Senator Wayne D. Fontana