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Senator Wayne D. Fontana

 

Legislative Wrap Up

CapitolThe General Assembly last week concluded voting session for the 2011-2012 legislative session.  While there were many important measures enacted during this session, I cannot help but also reflect upon the number of crucial issues that have gone unfinished or been ignored by the Corbett Administration and majority party in the House and Senate.  From the crippling funding cuts to our education system and the dismantling of safety net programs that benefit our most vulnerable citizens to the lack of action on our state’s transportation infrastructure and mass transit funding crisis, the past two years will be defined as that of misguided priorities and missed opportunities.  

No comprehensive jobs plan to lower our increased unemployment rate.  No action on the recommendations of the Governor’s own Transportation Funding Advisory Commission.  A voter ID law that even the courts agree was hastily enacted.  Elimination of the Adult Basic health insurance program and other vital health care services for our working families and the disabled.  Failure to close business tax loopholes for multi-billion dollar corporations in order to generate revenue.  The list of failures by this Administration is extensive.  

Starting now and through the next legislative session that begins in the new year, my Senate Democratic colleagues and I again stand ready to work with the majority to advance an agenda that puts people back to work, our students back on the right path to a meaningful education and ensures the health, safety and welfare of all our citizens through vital human service programs.     

The following are highlights of quality legislation enacted to benefit Pennsylvanians:

Task Force on Homeless Children’s Education Task Force on Homeless Children’s Education
Act 123 of 2012 is legislation I authored that established a task force to examine the educational needs of homeless children throughout the Commonwealth.  The Task Force on Homeless Children’s Education will study and assess the demographics of homeless parents and youth throughout the Commonwealth and the difficulties in providing educational services to homeless students while identifying successful strategies and best practices used in other states. Upon completion, the task force will issue a report and a set of recommendations that will allow the legislature to implement measures to provide education to homeless children.

Restoration of the Homeowner's Emergency Assistance Program (HEMAP) 
Act 70 of 2012 established the Homeowner Assistance Settlement Act which allowed for the reinstatement of the state’s successful HEMAP program.  This law established the Homeowner Assistance Settlement Fund to finance the Homeowner's Emergency Assistance Program (HEMAP).  Under the program, the Treasury Department is required to deposit all payments the state receives from the Homeowner Assistance Settlement Agreement into the Homeowner Assistance Settlement Fund.  The “Homeowner Assistance Settlement Agreement” refers to the agreement and related documents entered into in February of this year by the PA Attorney General and the leading U.S. mortgage servicing companies.  Up to $18 million will be allocated from the Fund to fund mortgage assistance measures, with 90% of the funding reserved for HEMAP and 10% reserved for funding consumer protection programs. An additional $6 million will be available to immediately address residual backlog from the program’s dormancy. HEMAP will receive $12 million in subsequent fiscal years.  HEMAP provides mortgage assistance to thousands of Pennsylvania families each year and also helps to reduce blight and the decline of neighboring home values, both of which are byproducts of foreclosure.

Land Banks
House Bill 1682 (HB 1682), which passed the Legislature last week and is awaiting signature by the Governor, allows municipalities with a population of over 10,000 to establish a land bank.  Land banks are used as tools to stabilize and return abandoned or tax-delinquent properties back to productive status.  Land banks act very similarly to municipal authorities and have the power to acquire and rehabilitate abandoned and vacant properties making them once again valuable additions to the community.  Abandoned properties have a tendency to burden our communities by encouraging crime and presenting safety hazards in addition to decreasing property values and impeding economic development.  Lands banks are effective tools to combat those problems. 

Did You Know…

Did you know that with the passage of House Bill 1682, Pennsylvania became the 10th state to pass land banks enabling legislation?  Pennsylvania joins Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, Maryland, Michigan, Missouri, New York, Ohio, and Texas.

Keystone Works Program
Act 107 of 2012 established the Keystone Works Program.  This program provides an opportunity for an unemployed worker receiving Unemployment Compensation to obtain job training with a business while continuing to receive their UC benefits, while at the same time incentivizing the employers to hopefully hire these unemployed individuals.  The worker benefits by staying connected to the workforce, obtaining new skills and receiving job-specific training in a high-priority occupation.  The employer benefits because the program helps off-set the cost of training, and offers incentives of up to $1,500 for every trainee they hire.

Expansion of Keystone Opportunity Zone Program
Act 16 of 2012 expanded the state's Keystone Opportunity Zone (KOZ) initiative.  First established in 1999, KOZs provide tax benefits to companies that create jobs in the designated zones.  Act 16 strengthens the program by providing additional tools to help focus on job creation here in Pennsylvania.  It authorized the creation of up to 15 new zones, known as Keystone Opportunity Expansion Zones (KOEZs). As with existing KOZs, the tax benefits in KOEZs will be available for 10 years and all new zones must be approved by local governments and school boards.  For businesses which invest at least $1 billion and create at least 400 jobs within seven years, the tax benefits will be extended to 15 years.  The legislation also increases oversight powers and responsibilities for the Department of Community and Economic Development (DCED). DCED will be required to monitor job creation and retention data, information on what types of jobs are created, the average hourly wages, and more.

taxesEarned Income Tax Credit (EITC) Program Expansion
Act 85 of 2012 included a provision to increase the existing EITC Program by $25 million making the total amount of EITC tax credits available to businesses that fund children who get scholarships to other schools totaling $100 million in Fiscal Year 2012-2013.  For the 2012-2013 school year, students are eligible to receive a scholarship if their household’s annual income is less than $60,000, plus $12,000 for each dependent member of the household.  After June 30, 2013, the maximum household income increases to $75,000 and the income allowance for each additional dependent rises to $15,000. The income allowance will be adjusted after July 1, 2014 based on Consumer Price Index increases.  An average scholarship will be $1,000 per student.

Businesses that pledge money to public and private school scholarships for one year are able to donate up to $300,000 and receive a tax credit from the state for up to 75 percent of the donated amount.  The amount a business firm may contribute increases to $400,000 in Fiscal Year 2013-2014, and to $750,000 beginning in Fiscal Year 2014-2015. Businesses may also be eligible to receive a tax cut of 90 percent of the donated amount for committing to an amount for two years.

Corrections Reform
Act 122 of 2012 and House Bill 135 (HB 135) – which passed the Legislature last week and is awaiting signature by the Governor – are measures put into place to reduce severely increased costs within the prison system and to reinvest in corrections programs that are proven to reduce recidivism all the while maintaining the safety of our citizens.  The Corrections Reform Act (Act 122) includes several corrections reform initiatives, including provisions to help reduce the prison population without risking the safety of the public, alternative sentencing programs for non-violent offenders and reentry and reintegration programs.  This restructuring is expected to yield up to $300 million in savings for Pennsylvania.  HB 135, known as the Justice Reinvestment Initiative (JRI), will use $86 million to directly support many of the initiatives that include increased programming for release for non-violent offenders, expediting programming for short-time non-violent offenders and aggressively utilizing alternative sentencing for non-violent offenders and the increased use of treatment programs.  Reducing spending on corrections and redirecting funds to programs for non-violent offenders is not only a fundamental step to reducing the number of inmates in our system, but it will also go a long way toward rehabilitation and reducing recidivism which saves taxpayer dollars.

Junior Driver Safety
Act 81 of 2011 requires that for the first six months after the issuance of a junior driver's license, the junior driver may not drive with more than one passenger under the age of 18 who is not a member of the junior driver's immediate family unless a parent or guardian is present. After the first six months, the number of non-family members under 18 would increase to three. The act also requires that the minimum behind-the-wheel driving requirements for licensure increases from 50 to 65 hours. Ten hours must be at night, and five hours must be during inclement weather. Lastly, the act makes it a primary offense if a driver or passenger under 18 is not properly restrained with a seat belt, child safety seat or booster seat.

TextingBan on Texting While Driving
Act 98 of 2011 prohibits motorists from using a wireless communications device to send, read or write a text message while driving. The violation is considered a primary offense, which means a law enforcement officer can pull over a driver for that offense alone. The statewide ban preempts and supersedes all local ordinances on this type of violation. The act does not apply to a GPS or other navigation system, a system that is built into the vehicle or a communication devise that is affixed to a mass transit vehicle or school bus.

Deadline to Request Absentee Ballots

BallotAny voter who needs an absentee ballot for the November 6th Election must complete and return the application to the Allegheny County Elections Division by October 30th at 5 p.m.  The Elections Division is located at 601 County Office Building, 542 Forbes Avenue, Pittsburgh, PA 15219.  You can download and print an absentee ballot application here, pick one up at any of my district offices or request one in person at the County Elections Division office.

Anyone voting by absentee ballot will be required to provide a PA Driver’s License number, PennDOT ID number, last four digits of Social Security Number, or a copy of an acceptable photo ID when applying.  After submitting your application, an absentee ballot will be mailed to you.  The completed absentee ballot must be returned to the Elections Division no later than 5 p.m. on November 2nd.  For fastest results, you may also visit the Elections Division and complete an application in person.  If properly registered, you will be handed an absentee ballot to vote on the spot.

Voter ID Reminder

VoterIdI want to take this opportunity to again remind my constituents of the recent developments on the voter ID law.  On October 2nd, Commonwealth Court Judge Robert Simpson stayed the mandatory requirements of the Voter ID law (Act 18) for at least the 2012 general election. This means that the state of the law reverts to what it was during the primary where voters can be educated about a possible requirement for photo ID in the future, but cannot be required to show one in order to vote.

Should voters show up at the polls on Election Day, November 6th, and do not have photo ID, they must still be allowed to vote in the actual voting machine -- not be forced to complete a provisional ballot. The court did not rule on the constitutionality of the concept of voter ID, but instead indicated that it would conduct a full trial on that issue in the near future.

Eventually voters will be required to show a valid ID in order to vote in future elections.  Even though you will not be required to show ID in order to vote in November, if you do not have a valid form of identification, you should begin taking steps now to ensure that your vote counts in future elections.  If you need a photo ID, please contact one of my district offices and my staff and I will gladly assist you in obtaining an acceptable form of ID.

Since the photo ID requirement became law, I have been working with the Corbett Administration in an effort to make the process of obtaining a photo ID simple and more convenient for voters.  I reached out several times to the Administration and asked that they create neighborhood centers and authorize state offices, including elected officials’ offices, to help facilitate the process of obtaining a photo ID.  My requests have been repeatedly denied by the Administration.

Moving forward, if this law is to be fully implemented in the future, I will continue my efforts to make the process of obtaining a photo ID more convenient.  For the November 6th election though, I want my constituents to understand that they do not need to show a photo ID in order to vote.

Flu/Pneumonia Shots

Flu ShotI want to remind my constituents of the Flu/Pneumonia Shot & Health Clinic I am hosting on tomorrow from 11 a.m. – 2 p.m. in Quinn Hall at the Church of the Resurrection in Brookline.  American HealthCare Group will be providing the free vaccinations to any senior with a Medicare Part B health insurance card.  Make sure you bring your card with you.

All attendees can also receive a free blood pressure screening compliments of Concordia South Hills and will have an opportunity to speak with a pharmacist from Duquesne University’s Mylan School of Pharmacy and “Ask the Pharmacist” questions about medications.  The PA Office of the Consumer Advocate, LifeSpan and the Allegheny County Department of Human Services are among the organizations that will be in attendance providing attendees with important information.

If you’ve already received a flu or pneumonia vaccination, you can still stop by and visit with the organizations in attendance.  Light refreshments will be provided.

Two Skills for Success Workshops Remain

Skills for Success - The Fontana Series Skills for Success: The Fontana Series. Register Online!

Two workshops remain this fall in the third installment of Skills for Success:  The Fontana Series which is currently taking place at the Carnegie Library-Beechview branch.  These workshops are scheduled for Thursday, October 25th and Thursday, November 1st from 3 – 7 p.m. If you are currently looking for a job or if you need assistance with any aspect of the job searching process, these free workshops will serve as a great resource for you.

Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh (CLP) As you know, I was proud to partner with CLP last year, providing grant funding for this free series aimed at building skills and creating excellent resumes and applications that aid job seekers in achieving the positions they desire.  Whether you have already built a resume and are looking to fine-tune it, if you are starting from scratch and need help with organizing your work history, if you need assistance with searching for positions online, or if you have never had to sell yourself in a job interview, these workshops will be beneficial. 

To register for one of these free workshops, please email careerworkshops@carnegielibrary.org or call 412-281-7141, ext. 2012. 

The remaining schedule for Beechview is listed below. 

CLP – Beechview branch
1910 Broadway Avenue
Pittsburgh, PA 15216

Thursday, Oct. 25 – Resumes & Cover Letters
Thursday, Nov. 1 – Interviewing & Networking
Workshops – 3 – 5 p.m., Career Labs – 5 – 7 p.m.

Small Business Outreach Day

Small Business Outreach DayThe next Small Business Development Center (SBDC) Outreach Day will be on Thursday, October 25th.  This is a free service that allows entrepreneurs to get help starting a small business or improving an existing business.  SBDC Client Services Liaison John Dobransky will once again be at my Kennedy Office (Kenmawr Plaza) to provide assistance between the hours of 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.  You may schedule an appointment with John by calling 412-624-2290. Appointments are not required but are encouraged. New and returning clients are welcome.

Pittsburgh Hosts Tomorrow’s World Leaders

The 3rd Annual One Young World Summit was held in Pittsburgh last week, providing yet another opportunity for our city to be showcased around the world.  The One Young World Summit brings together young people from all over the world to address and identify solutions to the same issues that world leaders tackle every day – including global business and health, education and sustainable development, unemployment, the role of government versus global business, leadership and governance and social business.  Just three years after Pittsburgh hosted world leaders at the G-20 Summit our city once again was selected to host a large, international gathering, becoming the first American city to host this Summit.  Previous events were held in London and Zurich and next year’s Summit is scheduled for Johannesburg. 

I want to congratulate and thank everyone who participated in organizing the city’s bid and to everyone associated with organizing the event.   A lot of effort from our leaders, business community and the non-profit community went into making this such an impressive and successful event for our region.

To read about more about the 2012 One Young World Summit please visit the One Young World Pittsburgh Partnership website.

Highmark/West Penn Allegheny Health System

Highmark/West Penn AlleghenyTomorrow, Community Collaborative Stakeholders is hosting a rally and press conference urging both Highmark and West Penn Allegheny Health System (WPAHS) to return to the bargaining table with the ultimate goal of reaching a deal on an affiliation agreement.  I wrote of the breakdown in negotiations in my October 2nd edition of News & Views.  It is important that these two entities complete a mutually acceptable affiliation so consumers are not deprived of needed choices in their health care with the potential loss of a major health care provider. Thousands of employees will also be negatively impacted if an agreement is not reached.  The rally and press conference begin at noon at WPAHS headquarters at 30 Isabella Street on the North Shore and will proceed to Highmark’s headquarters at Fifth Avenue Place, downtown.

Medicare Annual Open Enrollment

MedicareThe Medicare Open Enrollment period began on October 15th and runs through December 7th. All Medicare beneficiaries can make changes to their drug and/or Medicare Advantage plan coverage during this time.  Any changes made during this period will be effective on January 1, 2013.  Information about 2013 Medicare plan options can be viewed by visiting www.medicare.gov.  If you are on Medicare and need assistance during the Open Enrollment period in determining if your plan will continue to meet your needs you may contact APPRISE at 1-800-783-7067.  APPRISE is a free health insurance counseling program offered through the PA Department of Aging, designed to help older Pennsylvanians with Medicare.

Halloween SafetyCelebrating Halloween

While the official date of Halloween is October 31st, some communities celebrate the holiday at different times with trick-or-treating schedules varying by neighborhood and various parades and other celebrations taking place in the days leading up to the official holiday.  Please be mindful of this if you’re driving through neighborhoods where children are out trick-or-treating and watch your speed.  The PA Insurance Department offers the following Halloween Safety Tips to parents and neighbors.

Safety Tips for Parents

  • Make sure costumes fit properly as loose-fitting costumes can cause a child to trip and fall
  • Try and use make-up instead of masks as some masks can obstruct a child’s vision
  • Set a trick-or-treating route and stick with it
  • Discuss safety rules with kids before allowing them to go trick-or-treating
  • Remind children to visit homes familiar to them
  • Provide children with small battery-powered flashlights
  • Stay on sidewalks and avoid crossing yards
  • Cross streets at the corner using crosswalks where they exist and do not cross between parked cars
  • Inspect your child’s candy and treats before allowing them to eat it

Safety Tips for Neighbors

  • Turn on outside lights and leave them on all night to deter vandalism
  • Make sure walks and pathways are clear of debris, leaves, garden equipment and lawn decorations
  • Repair walkways, railings and steps leading to your home
  • Move cars, bikes, planters, sprinklers and other items into a locked garage or inside the house to deter theft or vandalism
  • If you own a swimming pool be sure the pool cover is secure, gates are locked and lights are on around the pool area
  • If you’re driving, slow down and watch for children in the street and on medians and exit driveways and alleyways with caution
  • If you’re a dog owner, keep your dog away from the front door if it is not used to visitors

The following is a listing of trick-or-treating schedules and other Halloween events taking place throughout the 42nd Senatorial District:

Baldwin Township 
Trick-or-treat – Oct. 31st, 6-8 p.m.
Parade – Oct. 27th, 1 p.m. 

Bellevue Borough
Trick-or-treat – Oct. 31st, 6-8 p.m.
Parade – Oct. 27th, 11 a.m.

Brentwood Borough 
Trick-or-treat – Oct. 31st, 6-8 p.m.

Carnegie Borough 
Trick-or-treat – Oct. 31st, 6-8 p.m.
Promenade – Oct. 27th, Noon

Castle Shannon Borough
Trick-or-treat – Oct. 31st, 6-8 p.m. 
Parade – Oct. 28th, 2 p.m.

Coraopolis Borough
Trick-or-treat – Oct. 31st, 6-8 p.m.  

Crafton Borough                
Trick-or-treat – Oct. 31st, 6-8 p.m.

Dormont Borough                                                      
Trick-or-treat – Oct. 31st, 6-8 p.m 

Green Tree Borough                                                  
Trick-or-treat – Oct. 31st, 6-8 p.m.
Parade – Oct. 28th, 5-7 p.m.

Heidelberg Borough                                                  
Trick-or-treat – Oct. 31st, 6-8 p.m.
Parade – Oct. 28th, 11 a.m.

Ingram Borough
Trick-or-treat – Oct. 27th, 2-4 p.m.
Parade – Oct. 27th, 1 p.m.

Kennedy Township
Trick-or-treat – Oct. 31st, 6-8 p.m,

McKees Rocks Borough
Trick-or-treat – Oct. 31st, 6-8 p.m.                             

Neville Township
Trick-or-treat – Oct. 31st, 6-8 p.m

Pennsbury Village
Trick-or-treat – Oct. 31st, 6-8 p.m.

Robinson Township
Trick-or-treat – Oct. 31st, 6-8 p.m.
Parade – Oct. 27th, Noon

Rosslyn Farms Borough
Trick-or-treat – Oct. 31st, 6-8 p.m.

Scott Township
Trick-or-treat – Oct. 31st, 6-8 p.m.

Stowe Township
Trick-or-treat – Oct. 31st, 6-8 p.m.

Thornburg Borough
Parade – Oct. 31st, 6:15 p.m.
Trick-or-treat – Following parade

 

The city of Pittsburgh’s official trick-or-treating hours are from 5:30-7:30 p.m. on October 31st.  Various neighborhoods will be holding parades and other events.  Below is listing of some of these activities:

Beechview
Parade – Oct. 31st, 8 p.m.

Brookline
Parade – Oct. 27th, 2 p.m.

Brighton Heights
Parade – Oct. 27th, 11:30 a.m.

Mt. Washington – South Hills Residence
Parade – Oct. 29th, 6 p.m.

High School Sports Update

The Baldwin Girls’ Soccer team was featured last week in a Pittsburgh Post-Gazette story as they qualified for the W.P.I.A.L. playoffs for the first time since 1993.

The W.P.I.A.L. girls and boys soccer playoffs began over the weekend.  I congratulate the teams from my district on great seasons and wish them well in the playoffs.  On the girls’ side, Bishop Canevin finished the season with a record of 11-2-2 and won Section 3A.  Seton-La Salle (Class A), Montour (Class AA) and Baldwin (Class AAA) also qualified for the playoffs with Seton-La Salle advancing to the quarterfinals with a 1-0 win over Neshannock.  They face Mohawk in the next round on Wednesday.  On the boys’ side, three teams from Section 3A qualified for the Class A playoffs.  Bishop Canevin won the section with an overall record of 13-3-2 while Seton-La Salle (13-3-0) and Carlynton (12-3-2) also qualified.  Bishop Canevin advanced to the quarterfinals with a 4-0 win over South Allegheny.  They will face Greensburg Central Catholic on Thursday.  Carlynton won their first round game in a shootout over Vincentian and will now face Sewickley Academy on Thursday.

The following are highlights from the district during Week 8 of the high school football season:

Brashear got touchdown runs from Russell Page and Diondre Farris and an interception return for a touchdown from Jamal Smith in their 21-7 win over Allderdice.

Sto-Rox improved to 7-1 with a 43-0 win over Laurel.    Lenny Williams threw two touchdown passes and rushed for another score.  Marcus Jackson rushed for a touchdown and Craig Johnson and Ben Shackelford caught touchdown passes.  Shackelford also returned a punt 85 yards for another touchdown and Dion Redman returned a fumble for a touchdown.

Cory Sevacko caught nine passes for over 100 yards and two touchdowns, including the winning score in the 4th quarter as Keystone Oaks defeated McGuffey 28-21.   Kobe Phillippi threw three touchdown passes and Dale Klobuchir rushed for another.  Klobuchir rushed for 134 yards in the win.

Brentwood defeated Bishop Canevin 42-7.  Chris Shortley rushed for two touchdowns in the win.  Justin Bauer, Justin Vickless, Ryan Shortley and Pat Carr also rushed for scores.  Vickless finished the game rushing for 183 yards.

Luke Brumbaugh threw two touchdown passes to Lou Rotunda and Nick Sywyj rushed for two scores in Seton-La Salle’s 35-0 win over Mohawk.  Seton-La Salle improved to 7-1 on the season.

Doug Altavilla threw touchdown passes to Stephon Harris and Nick Barca leading Baldwin to a 31-7 win over Canon-McMillan.  Dorian Brown rushed for a 16-yard touchdown and Luke Smorey returned an interception 100 yards for another score.

Josh Lapiana threw touchdown passes to Michael Boulos and Spencer Casson in Chartiers Valley’s loss to Blackhawk.  Austin Gromak also rushed for a touchdown.

Week 9 High School Football Schedule (All games Friday unless noted)

Moon @ Montour, 7:10 p.m.
Sto-Rox @ Rochester, 7:30 p.m.
Keystone Oaks @ Burgettstown, 7:30 p.m.
West Allegheny @ Chartiers Valley, 7 p.m.
California @ Brentwood, 7:30 p.m.
Bethel Park @ Baldwin, 7:30 p.m.
Monessen @ Carlynton, 7:30 p.m.
Avonworth @ Northgate, 7:30 p.m.
Bishop Canevin @ Serra Catholic, 7:30 p.m.
South Park @ Seton-La Salle, 7 p.m.

One Young World One Young World Summit Fontana Fact

The 2012 One Young World Summit was attended by 1,500 people under the age of 30 representing nearly 200 countries from around the world.

Offices of State Senator Wayne D. Fontana

  Brookline District
932 Brookline Blvd
Pittsburgh, PA 15226
Phone: 412-344-2551
Fax: 412-344-3400
Harrisburg
543 Main Capitol
Box 203042
Harrisburg, PA 17120
Phone: 717-787-5300
Fax: 717-772-5484
Kennedy Township
Kenmawr Plz
524 Pine Hollow Rd
Kennedy Twp, PA 15136
Phone: 412-331-1208
Fax: 412-331-2079
Beechview Satellite
1660 Broadway Ave.
Pittsburgh, PA 15216
Phone: 412-343-2080
Fax: 412-343-2418
NAMI Walks Vote PA Carnegie Science Center PennDOT Medicare.gov West Penn Allegheny Health System Highmark ONE YOUNG WORLD Small Business Development Center (SBDC)