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Senator Fontana and David L. Cohen, Executive Vice President of the Comcast Corporation

Senator Fontana and David L. Cohen, Executive Vice President of the Comcast Corporation, speak for a few minutes prior to the August 16th press conference announcing the Internet Essentials Program. The program allows families with children who qualify for free lunch under the National School Lunch Program to purchase high-speed internet for $9.95 per month with no activation fees or equipment rental fees.

It’s About the Jobs

Even though the State Senate will not be back in voting session until next Monday, September 19th, this week is still a busy one for committees – particularly in Pittsburgh. Yesterday, the Senate Appropriations Committee held a hearing to consider the impact of budget cuts on the University of Pittsburgh. This afternoon, the Senate Banking & Insurance Committee will hold a hearing to accept testimony regarding the ongoing contractual dispute between Highmark and UPMC and Highmark's proposed acquisition of West Penn Allegheny Hospital. Tomorrow, the Senate Consumer Protection & Professional Licensure Committee will hold a public hearing on House Bill 10, legislation that will change how alternate transportation companies receive approval in the Port Authority service area. In the afternoon, the Legislative Reapportionment Commission will be hearing testimony from citizens about reapportionment. On Thursday, the Senate Law & Justice Committee hosts a hearing on House Bill 242, which creates limited distillery licenses.

While each of these is an important issue, I’m struck by the fact that the focus of the General Assembly is not on what is perhaps most important in our Commonwealth right now – jobs. Pennsylvania has been lucky as our economy is better than many of our neighboring states, but our unemployment rate is beginning to grow (7.8% in July – last available) with 494,000 residents looking for jobs. Our central focus for the fall agenda should be on the economy and creating jobs, but I have yet to see any evidence of attention being given to that issue. In fact, if recent news articles are any indication, House and Senate leadership will be focused on school choice vouchers and liquor privatization.

In 2006, Governor Rendell’s Transportation Funding & Reform Commission confirmed that our transportation and highway and bridge systems were in crisis. The commission recommended $900 million in additional funding for highway and bridges and $760 million in targeted public transit funding. The work of the Transportation Funding Advisory Commission just recently reiterated that need, for work as well as capital costs. Now, because of the flooding in Central and Northern PA, at least nine bridges will require full replacement and there are ongoing inspections of another 2,000 state-owned bridges going on currently. The cost of the damage has been estimated at $150 million to $400 million.

I wrote recently about transportation and how infusing funds into our transportation system now will result in jobs. Every $100 in infrastructure investment returns $350 to our economy. Every $1 billion in highway and bridge improvements supports 30,000 jobs. Every $1 we invest in public transportation generates $4 in new economic activity. These are jobs that are family-sustaining and can make a real impact in our region. It is long past time that we address this issue.

As we discuss and debate the problems facing us, we need to maximize the use of existing state resources and take advantage of new opportunities before us that will build our economy. Jobs must be priority number one. I am committed to doing everything in my power to ensure that creating and retaining good-paying jobs is part of any discussion that we have at the state level – and pledge to work with my colleagues to accomplish that this fall.

Soldiers & Sailors Fundraiser Event

Soldiers & SailorsA unique night at the theater is planned for Soldiers & Sailors Memorial Hall & Museum’s annual fundraiser. The Cannon Ball Military Follies Revue, a stage production featuring patriotic and military scenes and music from stage and screen, will be held on Sunday, October 16th at 3:00 p.m. Joe Grushecky, Bill Deasy, band members of The Clarks and local arts schools and organizations will be performing at the event.

What makes this year’s fundraiser so historic is that it serves as the grand finale of Soldiers and Sailors’ year-long centennial celebration and marks the beginning of another 100 years of honoring our military heroes. The annual fundraiser helps the museum raise operational funds and continue its mission. Tickets for the show can be purchased online. Visit the Soldiers and Sailors website for more information about the fundraiser as well as sponsorship opportunities.

Did You Know…

Did you know Soldiers & Sailors Memorial Hall & Museum Trust, Inc. has established a Civil War drum fife re-enactment corps for the 6th Regiment United States Colored Troops? The group of teens makes several public appearances each year and performed in more than half a dozen events from Pittsburgh to Harrisburg in 2010. In fact, they’ll be featured at FontanaFest again this year! The USCT Drum Corps program is always looking for new recruits.

Penalty-Free Period for Older Court Related Payments

Anyone who owes criminal fines, fees and restitutions to Allegheny County that were referred to collection agencies before 2005 can pay without penalty now through December 30, 2011. The county Department of Court Records has eliminated the commission charged on overdue balances to encourage defendants to pay what they owe. In the past, criminal cases with a balance owed were referred to outside collection companies if the county had trouble collecting the fees.

More than 59,000 qualifying cases have been recalled that still have a balance due. This allows debtors to pay their balance without paying the additional commission, which can be as high as 25 percent. A searchable list of all criminal cases recalled from collection agencies and eligible for the penalty-free period is available on the Department of Court Records Criminal Division website.

When the penalty-free period ends, all cases for which no regular payments are being made will once again be referred to outside collection agencies. At that time the Department will also refer all criminal cases prior to 2008 to collection agencies. If you have questions, you may call the Department at 412-350-5045.

Allegheny County CourthouseAllegheny County Courthouse Featured on PCN

You can learn all about one of our county’s unique architectural treasures, which also happens to be a National Historic Landmark, by tuning into PCN this week. A special state-wide television series airing this month on the Pennsylvania Cable Network (PCN) will highlight the Allegheny County Courthouse in the City of Pittsburgh.

The County Commissioners Association of Pennsylvania (CCAP) selected the courthouse and several others for a six-part television series in celebration of CCAP’s 125th anniversary. The series will highlight the architecture, anecdotes and history of the courthouses. The Allegheny Courthouse episode will be shown this Thursday, September 15th at 6 p.m., and this Saturday, September 17th at 3 p.m. For more information on CCAP’s anniversary celebration and the special series airing on PCN, visit the CCAP website.

High School Sports Rundown

In 1979, when the Steel Industry waned, the spirits of Pittsburghers everywhere were lifted by the Pirates and Steelers. The Pirates won their fifth World Series title in the fall of 1979 and a few months later, the Steelers captured their fourth Lombardi trophy. Of course, these feats did not bring back jobs in the steel industry, but they did allow Pittsburghers to take pride in their hometown, especially after being referred to as “the City of Champions.”

Sports has always has had a way of uniting regions, cities and communities. No where is this spirit more evident than on Friday nights in the fall throughout western Pennsylvania. I continue to be amazed at how communities throughout western Pennsylvania support their high school sports teams, especially their football teams.

High school student athletes make enormous sacrifices to be able to participate in sports and it is great to see recognition from the community. Each week, I would like to recognize our district’s top performers on the football field.

  • Brashear scored three defensive touchdowns in a 22-13 win over University Prep. Linebacker Deshaun Roberts recovered two fumbles for touchdowns.
  • Dale Kolbuchir rushed for 257 yards and scored five touchdowns in Keystone Oaks 52-28 win over Burrell. His 257 yards rushing were the 3rd most in the western PA during Week Two.
  • Kevin Hart led Seton La-Salle to a 30-0 win over Shady Side Academy, rushing for three touchdowns and returning the opening kickoff 85 yards for a touchdown.
  • Chartiers Valley’s Wayne Capers rushed for a touchdown, threw a touchdown pass and returned a punt for a touchdown in a 37-14 win over Trinity.
  • Sean Owens rushed for two touchdowns and passed for two touchdowns, leading Cornell to a 48-0 win over Bentworth.
  • Sto-Rox defeated Carlynton 30-6. Josh Beverly rushed for 200 yards and Lenny Williams rushed for 144 for the Vikings.
  • Justin Vickless scored three touchdowns and rushed for 114 yards in Brentwood’s 34-0 win over South Side Beaver.
  • Kevin Mechas led Bishop Canevin to a 40-0 win over OLSH, scoring three touchdowns. Casey McCaffrey rushed for 138 yards and Bobby Gustine rushed for 111 yards.
  • Montour running back Julian Durden rushed for 162 yards in a 22-19 loss to Hopewell.
  • Northgate’s Cody Walter rushed for three touchdowns in a 26-13 win over Jefferson-Morgan.

(From the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)

For those interested in supporting their local teams in person, here is a schedule for Week 3:

Friday, September 16

  • Allderdice vs. Brashear (Cupples Stadium), 7pm
  • Baldwin @ Norwin, 7:30pm
  • Chartiers Valley @ Elizabeth Forward, 7:30pm
  • Ambridge @ Montour, 7:10pm
  • Quaker Valley @ Keystone Oaks, 7pm
  • Sto-Rox @ Neshannock, 7pm
  • Bentworth @ Brentwood, 7:30pm
  • Carlynton @ Clairton, 7:30pm
  • Bishop Canevin @ Northgate, 7:30pm
  • Washington vs. Seton La-Salle (Chartiers Valley), 7pm

Saturday, September 17

  • Langley @ Homer-Center, 12pm
  • Cornell @ Western Beaver, 12:30pm

Yard Sale in the Park

Yard SaleFor the second year, Kennedy Township will be sponsoring its “Yard Sale in the Park” on Saturday, September 17th from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. In addition to the sale, there will also be refreshments available and a Bike Rodeo sponsored by the Kennedy Township Police Department in the field next to William Andrews shelter, lower level.

Baldwin TownshipFontana Fact

Baldwin Township is named after Henry Baldwin (1780-1844), a former Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States. He was also the half-brother of one of our country’s Founding Fathers- Abraham Baldwin. Henry Baldwin started his law career in Pittsburgh not long after he graduated from Yale University at the age of 17.

Offices of State Senator Wayne D. Fontana

 
Soldiers and Sailors website Transportation Funding Advisory Commission Report
Run Your Rox