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Senator Wayne D. Fontana

Protection for Homeowners

Imagine signing all of the proper paperwork to finance and purchase a newly constructed dream home only to find out down the road that a mechanics’ lien has been placed on your investment without you knowing. Or imagine your house being damaged by a tornado that rolled through town and in an effort to fix your property, a mechanics’ lien has been placed on your home. These are some examples of why two consumer protection bills sitting before the Pennsylvania Legislature need to become law. House

In 2009, a number of homeowners in Royersford, Pennsylvania, who purchased property, found themselves faced with mechanics’ liens against their newly constructed homes when the homebuilder subsequently declared bankruptcy. Although the homeowners had already purchased their properties, subcontractors, who were not paid by the builder for work performed, filed liens against these homes.

To remove the liens, these homeowners were faced with the prospect of having to pay the subcontractors for services that were already included in the purchase price of the property, but were not paid by the homebuilder or general contractor, as is customary.

You may also recall the tornado and hail that hit Westmoreland County in March 2011. By January of this year, 17 Westmoreland County residents found that they had mechanics’ liens placed against their properties when the roofing company they hired to repair the damages from the storm failed to pay the material supplier for shingles and other materials used on their homes. The only way for these homeowners to be alleviated of the liens is to pay the supplier for these items while the contractor walked away with additional profits on the homeowner’s tab.

The repercussions don’t stop there. A mechanics lien, if unpaid, can impact the ability of a homeowner to sell their property, refinance their home, and obtain other types of loans like home equity or service or repair items covered under a home warranty.

The legal actions that subcontractors and suppliers are pursuing against property owners are typical procedures in Pennsylvania. In fact, state law allows subcontractors to file mechanics’ liens on properties if they are not paid for their work by a general contractor. However, as examples of double payments by the consumer increases, it has been brought to the Legislature’s attention that reform needs to take place to better protect the unfairly charged homeowners.

There are two bills before the Pennsylvania General Assembly that would better defend a homeowner of a newly constricted house or for those seeking to remodel from mechanics’ liens. House Bill 1602 (HB 1602) and Senate Bill 1495 (SB 1495) would each eliminate the ability of subcontractors, suppliers and others to file liens on owner-occupied residences when the monetary obligations have been paid in full. In those cases, a subcontractor could sue only the contractor.

In addition, a homeowner doesn’t necessarily always know who is on the job, thus when he or she pays the bill, unpaid services or supplies resulting in a mechanics’ lien being filed on their home is a complete surprise to the property owner. There is a provision under these bills where a property owner would be required to file a notice when work starts, which would mandate all subcontractors and suppliers to provide owners with notice of the work they are performing or the materials they are providing. This provision will also help the subcontractor and suppliers receive payment for these services. Furthermore, HB 1602 and SB 1495 have language that protects homeowners from mechanics’ liens once closing has occurred on newly constructed property.

Efforts to make changes to the mechanics’ lien law has been proposed in prior years, however, as these victims have had to experience, the proposed legislation was never signed into law. HB 1602 passed the House of Representatives on March 28th, by a vote of 190-6. The bill is currently sitting in the Senate Labor and Industry Committee. The companion bill, SB 1495, passed the Senate Labor and Industry Committee just last week unanimously.

The Pennsylvania Association of Realtors has been a strong supporter of this measure. Being I have a real estate background myself, I found it important to be a co sponsor of SB 1495 and I hope to see one of these bills signed into law before the end of the year.

Homeowners should not be held responsible when a contractor they hire and pay to do work fails to pay their subcontractors and suppliers. Subcontractors have every right to collect money owed to them for work they performed, but a subcontractor or supplier should be going after the contractor who cheated them of the funds, not the innocent consumer.

Voter ID Law

VoterIdOn 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 will be hosting a Flu/Pnemonia Shot & Health Clinic on Wednesday, October 24th 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. Several other organizations will be present 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.

Did You Know…

Did you know during 2011-2012, 132.8 million doses of flu vaccine were distributed in the United States? Manufacturers have projected that they will produce between 146 million and 149 million doses of flu vaccine for the 2012-2013 season.

Free Assistance with Securing a Job!

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

The third installment of Skills for Success: The Fontana Series is moving this week to the Carnegie Library-Knoxville branch. Workshops begin on Thursday and will continue each Thursday through November 1st. 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 (CLP) 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, or need assistance with searching for positions online, this workshop will benefit you. I have heard directly from attendees of past sessions who have been able to find full-time work after putting to practice many of the lessons learned at the workshop.

Competition today for jobs is fierce and job seekers may need tools to improve their chances at securing employment. This series provides those tools by featuring two separate workshops: one focused on resumes and cover letters, and the other dedicated to interviews and networking. This series also contains a career lab where attendees can work on online applications and explore library resources. Here, individuals receive assistance with resumes, interview skills and online application forms. Due to limited space, registration is required for workshops however walk-ins are welcome for the career labs.

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

CLP – Beechview branch
1910 Broadway Avenue
Pittsburgh, PA 15216

Thursday, Oct. 11 – Resumes & Cover Letters
Thursday, Oct. 18 – Interviewing & Networking
Thursday, Oct. 25 – Resumes & Cover Letters
Thursday, Nov. 1 – Interviewing & Networking
Workshops – 3 – 5 p.m., Career Labs – 5 – 7 p.m.

Educating the Public on Child Abuse

child abuseThe PA Bar Association and 36 county bar associations across the Commonwealth are launching a public education campaign about PA’s Child Protective Services Law and the steps everyone should take to report suspected child abuse. If you suspect a child is being abused, you can report it to the Department of Public Welfare's ChildLine by calling 1-800-932-0313. ChildLine is staffed around the clock, every day. The Bar Association has also published a brochure that provides education on identifying child abuse, how to file a report, and what happens after a report has been filed.

I commend the Bar Association on their campaign to educate the public on child abuse. Early in 2011, I introduced Senate Bill 549 (SB 549) that would strengthen the Child Protection Law in Pennsylvania by requiring school employees to report suspected abuse to both school authorities and law enforcement immediately so that the discretion of the school is removed. My legislation has over 35 co sponsors and clearly shows bipartisan support, yet SB 549 has been stuck in the Senate Appropriations Committee since June 2011. I have introduced a form of this bill since 2005 and over the past few years, I have tweaked the legislation as I continue to work with stakeholders to improve the measure to meet their suggestions and recommendations. Action on SB 549 is long overdue and everyday that my measure isn’t law is another day more children are at risk.

PHFA offers home mortgage loans at lowest rate in agency’s history

PHFAThe PA Housing Finance Agency (PHFA) broke new ground in mid-September by offering the lowest interest rate ever on its home loan programs – 2.95 percent. Homebuyers who qualify for the agency’s Keystone Home Loan Program are eligible for this historic low rate. Despite turbulent market conditions during the past several years, the agency has continued to offer competitive mortgage programs, with several new programs launched since January. This latest rate enhancement means that even more Pennsylvanians will be able to achieve their dream of owning a home. In addition to this special low rate, borrowers may also qualify for up to $4,000 in closing cost assistance. Homebuyers can learn more by calling PHFA’s Homebuyer Hotline during weekday business hours at 800-822-1174. Information about PHFA’s homeownership programs also is available on the agency's website.

Environmental Education Grants Available

DEPThe PA Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) is now accepting applications for 2013 Environmental Education Grants. These grants are used to fund: teacher professional development; curriculum integration; outdoor learning resources such as trails, shelters, streamside plantings and educational programming; transportation to field study sites; water chemistry testing equipment; and educational events. Schools, colleges and universities, county conservation districts, non-profit organizations, municipalities and businesses are encouraged to apply. The maximum grant award is $7,500.

Applicants interested in applying can visit www.dep.state.pa.us, call DEP’s Environmental Education Information Center at 717-772-1828 or email adevine@pa.gov. The deadline to apply is December 13th.

General Store Opens at Pittsburgh Public Market

Pittsburgh Public MarketNeighbors in the Strip opened The General Store in Pittsburgh Public Market on October 5th. The General Store, featuring local products, will serve as the vehicle for the Retail Workforce Development Pilot Project, which will provide job training in retail operations, management, marketing and ownership through the actual creation and operation of a retail booth in Pittsburgh Public Market.

The Retail Workforce Development Pilot Project grant, funded by the RK Mellon Foundation, will provide a 12-week job training experience to 16-20 individuals over the course of one year. This job training targets the retail sector and upon completion of the program, opportunities will be developed with existing Strip District businesses and Pittsburgh Public Market merchants who need additional retail employees. There will also be opportunities for trainees to establish their own business within the market.

For more information about Pittsburgh Public Market and the opening of the General Store, please visit www.pittsburghpublicmarket.org or call 412-281-4505.

Pittsburgh Receives National Acclaim

The city of Pittsburgh was recently named the 11th best city in the United States by Businessweek. Businessweek.com and Bloomberg rankings teamed up to evaluate data on 100 of the nation’s largest cities and complied a listing of the top 50 cities in the United States. Among the criteria used to determine rankings were each city’s leisure attributes, educational attributes, economic factors, crime, and air quality. Pittsburgh was praised for its “strong leisure offerings and major universities in the University of Pittsburgh and Carnegie Mellon.” The city’s residents were also cited as being “fiercely proud of their town and their pro sports teams.” To read more about Pittsburgh and to view the Top 50 cities, please visit Businessweek's story on the rankings.

Pittsburgh also enjoyed recognition last week as Grant Street in downtown Pittsburgh was named one of America’s 20 Great Streets by the American Planning Association (APA). APA's flagship program celebrates places of exemplary character, quality, and planning. Places are selected annually and represent the gold standard in terms of having a true sense of place, cultural and historical interest, community involvement, and a vision for tomorrow. In describing Grant Street’s placement on this list, the APA said in part: “Concentrated along these 11 short blocks is Pittsburgh's finest collection of historic buildings and modern skyscrapers, buildings that tell the stories of 20th century aristocrats and architects who shaped the city into an industrial and banking empire.”

Emerald View Park Autumn Celebration

Emerald View ParkThe Mt. Washington Community Development Corporation (MWCDC) is hosting an Autumn Celebration in Emerald View Park on Sunday, October 14th from 2 – 4 p.m. The public is welcome to visit the park and see the new and exciting trail that completes the western connection between Point of View and Republic Street. The event will feature an interactive trail tour with refreshments and activities for people of all ages. Attendees are asked to meet at the Greenleaf parking area (1880 Greenleaf Street). You may RSVP for the Autumn Celebration by emailing info@mwcdc.org or calling 412-481-3220, ext. 200.

High School Sports Update

Congratulations to Sto-Rox quarterback Lenny Williams on being named the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette’s High School Male Athlete of the Week. Click on the previous link to read about Lenny who is one of the area’s top quarterbacks while possessing a 3.9 grade point average.

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette published a story last week on the Montour girls soccer team and their quest to earn a playoff berth. Montour’s Jane Schleicher ranks among the W.P.I.A.L. leaders in goals.

The following are highlights from the district during Week 6 of the high school football season:

  • Tynen Greer and Ryan Mihelcic each threw a touchdown pass and rushed for another in Montour’s 50-9 win over Chartiers Valley. Seven different Spartans scored touchdowns as Montour improved to 6-0 on the season. Greer, Devin Wilson, Ryan Mihelcic, and Cole Macek rushed for scores, Lucas Parrish and Justin Hill caught touchdown passes and Kevin Klemmer returned an interception for a touchdown.
  • Deshawn Roberts rushed for three touchdowns and Diondre Ferris rushed for two in Brashear’s 35-6 win over Carrick.
  • Sto-Rox improved to 5-1 with a 48-21 win over Union. Lenny Williams and Marcus Jackson each rushed for two touchdowns and Brendan Blair rushed for one. Jason Rippole returned an interception for a touchdown.
  • Cody Walter rushed for 260 yards leading Northgate to a 20-0 win over Leechburg. Walter’s 260 yards was the highest rushing total in the W.P.I.A.L. in week 6. Northgate improved to 5-1.
  • Dale Klobuchir rushed for 115 yards and a touchdown in Keystone Oaks 27-20 overtime loss to South Park. Kobe Phillippi threw touchdown passes to Cory Sevacko and Braydon Griffiths.
  • Jim Tersak scored four touchdowns in Bishop Canevin’s 41-9 win over Fort Cherry. Tyler Reddy rushed for a touchdown and threw a 60-yard touchdown pass to Mike Tambellini.

Week 7 High School Football Schedule (All games Friday unless noted)

Perry @ Brashear, 7 p.m. (Thurs.)
Chartiers Valley @ Ambridge, 7:30 p.m.
Montour @ Blackhawk, 7:30 p.m.
Quaker Valley @ Seton-La Salle, 7 p.m.
South Allegheny @ Keystone Oaks, 7 p.m.
Western Beaver @ Sto-Rox, 7 p.m.
Brentwood @ Carlynton, 7:30 p.m.
Apollo-Ridge @ Northgate, 7:30 p.m.
Baldwin @ Fox Chapel, 7 p.m.
Clairton @ Bishop Canevin, 7 p.m. (Sat.)

Pittsburgh PiratesFontana Fact

Even though the finish was not what fans had hoped for, the Pittsburgh Pirates finished the season with a record of 79-83, their highest win total since the 1997 season. The Pirates drew more than 2 million (2,091,918) fans for 80 home dates this season, an average of over 26,000 fans per game. It was their highest attendance total since 2001, the first year PNC Park opened.

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 Pittsburgh Public Market Pirates PHFA