Senator Wayne D. Fontana is joined by State Representatives Dan Deasy and Nick Kotik and Craig Rippole, a 2012 inductee in the Sto-Rox Sports Hall of Fame. Senator Fontana had the honor of presenting citations on behalf of the Pennsylvania Senate to the 19 inductees of the Sto-Rox Sports Hall of Fame on Saturday, February 4.
A Very Costly Mandate
I have received many letters, e-mails and calls lately on a piece of legislation that would require all Pennsylvanians to show photo identification to vote. Although this may seem like a good idea at first glance, a more in depth look at House Bill 934 (HB 934) proves that this is unnecessary for our Commonwealth.
Currently, Pennsylvanians are only required to show identification when voting in a polling place for the first time. Some examples of acceptable ID include a current utility bill, a paycheck or bank statement, a gun permit, or a driver’s license, as long as these items have the individual’s name and address. However, a poll worker can still request to see identification at a later time.
Under HB 934, a government-issued photo ID would be required for most individuals before voting. Due to the significant restraints this bill places on voters, the Senate State Government Committee amended the legislation by expanding the acceptable types of identification. Now IDs from certain accredited colleges and universities, as well as some state care facilities will be an acceptable form of identification. For people who cannot provide ID at the polls, they will be able to vote using a provisional ballot, but will have to show identification within six days of an election.
The bill passed the House of Representatives on June 23rd by a vote of 108-88. All Democrat Representatives voted no along with a few Republicans. HB 934 passed the Senate State Government Committee on December 12th, by a vote of 6-5. All Democrats on this committee voted no, along with one Republican. The legislation currently resides in the Senate Appropriations Committee, of which I am a member.
Perhaps what is most alarming about this issue is the estimated cost to Pennsylvania’s taxpayers. In May 2011, the Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center published a report stating that requiring voter identification cards will cost over $11 million. Since every United States citizen has the right to vote under the Voting Rights Act of 1965, the Commonwealth would have to issue a “free” identification card. But as the report shows, many factors have to take place before an individual can vote in our state under this mandate. Some of the costs associated with HB 934 would include the actual making of the “free” voter ID cards, public education, voter notification of the new law, photo ID equipment, and election day staff.
There are two sides to every story. Many legislators feel that this mandate is necessary to prevent voter fraud for reasons that include impersonation at the polls, fictitious registrations, double voting, and voting by illegal aliens. However, in the 2008 presidential election, only four cases of voter fraud were reported out of the 8.73 million registered Pennsylvania voters.
Many of my Democratic colleagues and I believe that this is another example of the Republican agenda for the upcoming elections. This inevitably will lead to the disenfranchisement of thousands of voters across Pennsylvania. According to research, this kind of mandate usually affects seniors, women, the poor and minorities.
More importantly, at a time when we are faced with extreme budget cuts, is this mandate really necessary? Shouldn’t our priorities be restoring education funding, creating jobs, and closing the Delaware loophole, to name a few?
As of January 2012, only eight states in the United States require such strict identification to vote. If the measure is approved by the General Assembly sometime in the near future, poll workers during the April primary would ask an individual for photo identification, but those without one would still be able to cast a ballot. The law would go into full effect for the November general election.
Please be reassured that when it comes time to vote on this legislation, I will take all of the letters, e-mails and calls I have received about this matter into consideration. After all, you, the voters, are the ones who elected me and I will remain the voice for my constituents.
Sunday Car Sales
Early last year, I was asked by Senator Stack, my colleague from Philadelphia County, to co-sponsor legislation that would permit car sales on Sundays. Senate Bill 758 (SB 758), was introduced on March 7th in the Senate Consumer Protection and Professional Licensure Committee and is still in that committee today. Similar bills have been introduced in previous sessions, however, no votes ever took place.
I am routinely approached by my Senate colleagues to sign on as a co-sponsor to legislation. However, my willingness to be a co-sponsor to this piece of legislation does not necessarily mean I support the bill. Often times I choose to sign on because I support the bill but in other instances, like this instance, I want to see a particular issue deliberated and give my constituents an opportunity to voice their opinions. There are often many pros and cons that are brought to my attention during this time period and being enlightened by my constituents helps me better determine how I will vote.
On January 29th, the Pittsburgh Tribune Review published a story on the issue of allowing car dealers to open and sell vehicles on Sundays. Since then, I have heard from many constituents on this matter and the response has been almost unanimously against. Many have indicated that they enjoy leisurely strolling through various dealership lots on Sundays because they know a salesperson will not pressure them into buying something they are not ready to purchase. In addition, many car dealer employees have also voiced their opinion saying that Sunday is their guaranteed day off and they enjoy the luxury of spending it with friends and family or tending to their own personal business.
I happen to share this sentiment as I indicated in the Tribune Review’s story but also appreciate hearing from my constituents as well! Thank you to all of those who took the time to offer your thoughts on this legislation. I have documented your positions should the bill ever be considered for a vote.
PA Housing Finance Agency Upgrades Homeownership Programs
The Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency (PHFA) recently announced changes to its homeownership programs aimed at keeping products customer-focused and competitive in the market. PHFA loans will now have more attractive interest rates and a 60-day lock option, which was not previously available. This 60-day lock option does just that: allows a borrower to lock in interest rates for up to 60 days until closing.
Did You Know…
PHFA has assisted more than 142,000 families and individuals in achieving homeownership by providing funding totaling more than $9.9 billion.
PHFA also announced a new down-payment and closing-cost assistance program that will aid homebuyers that have difficulty saving for these costs. The new Keystone Advantage Assistance Loan will provide a subordinate loan of up to 2 percent of the sale price (maximum of $4,000) for qualified borrowers obtaining a PHFA first mortgage.
PHFA will be hosting informational webinars during February to update customers on these changes. Additional details are available at www.phfa.org or by calling the agency’s homeownership hotline at 1-800-822-1174.
PennDOT Hosting Public Meeting
Officials from PennDOT and the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) are hosting an Open House Public Meeting on Thursday, February 16th to discuss Phase 4 of the Liberty Tunnel Rehabilitation Project. The public meeting will be held at the Seton Center Brookline, 1900 Pioneer Avenue, Pittsburgh, 15226, from 4:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. The project team will identify the proposed project features at the meeting and will be available to answer questions and gather feedback from attendees.
The proposed project involves the following tasks: rehabilitating the portal faces, arched portal walls, arched reinforcing beams at the exit ends of the tunnels, and back walls above the tunnels to return them to their approximate original appearance; removing unsound concrete from the interior tunnel walls and replacing it with in-kind material; removing ventilation arch walls and replacing them in-kind; removing deteriorating concrete from cross-passage walls and ceilings and replacing material in-kind; and replacing the lighting and fire doors at the cross-passages.
Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh News
Carrick/Knoxville Library Public Meeting
The Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh is hosting a public meeting on Saturday, February 18th at the Temple Baptist Church at 743 Brownsville Road. The meeting will run from 10:00 a.m. – noon and provide residents of Carrick and Knoxville an update on the potential library on Brownsville Road. Attendees will have the opportunity to participate in a discussion, ask questions and voice opinions. Registration for the meeting is not required. For more information or if you have any questions, please contact Maggie McFalls, Community Engagement Coordinator for the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh at 412-622-8877 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
CLP – Brookline Expands Hours
The Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh, Brookline Branch will be expanding their hours of operation. Beginning on Monday, February 20th, the CLP – Brookline will be open from 10:00 a.m. – 8:00 p.m., Monday thru Wednesday and from 10:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m., Thursday through Saturday.
After Hours @ the Library!
The Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh is hosting “After Hours @ the Library!” on Friday, February 10th at 6:30 p.m. at the main branch in Oakland. After Hours is an opportunity to visit the library after business hours and enjoy some of Pittsburgh’s finest vendors. Attendees can enjoy appetizers from The Culinary Artists’ Chef Chaz Smith, music from celebrated local saxophonist Tony Campbell, beer from Full Pint Brewing, cocktails from Wigle Whiskey and Esporao Wine, and sweets from several of Pittsburgh’s candy shops. There is also an opportunity to participate in a live action Candyland game and an antique library furniture auction. Tickets are $25 until February 8th and $30 if purchased at the door. For more information or to purchase tickets, please call 412-622-6502 or visit www.carnegielibrary.org/afterhours.
Sto-Rox High School Sports Hall of Fame
I was proud to attend a ceremony and issue Senate citations honoring the 19 new members of the Sto-Rox Sports Hall of Fame on February 4th. The ceremony took place in between the junior varsity and varsity boys’ basketball games featuring Sto-Rox and Montour. An overflow crowd was on hand for the game featuring two of the area’s best teams, but also to pay tribute to 19 individuals who have distinguished themselves in athletics during and beyond their years at Sto- Rox. The amount of support from the community was astounding. I am grateful to those that attended as we witnessed a live demonstration of how high school sports can bring communities together.
In addition to bringing communities together, high school sports teach our young people life lessons such as how to win gracefully and cope with defeat. Sports also foster teamwork, discipline and sacrifice. We need acknowledge the coaches, administrators and directors that provide these life lessons to our young people. Because of their willingness to educate, our young athletes can use these lessons as a foundation as they move on in their own lives.
The group of distinguished honorees included athletes in football, basketball, baseball, softball, and track, coaches, athletic directors and contributors. I congratulate the following individuals and their families on being inducted into the Sto-Rox Sports Hall of Fame.:
|Andy Bednar, Class of 1986
Jessica Buranovsky, Class of 2007
Kerry Connolly, Class of 2009
Eugene Dellemonache, Class of 1983
Larry Dianni, Coach, 1986-1993
Daren DiMichele, Class of 1984
Rossi Ficarri, Sr., Contributor
Jen Jacobs, Class of 1991
Tony Magnelli, Jr., Class of 1979
Dennis Naughton, Class of 1967
Joe Panucci, Contributor
Ed Paston, Athletic Director, 1966-1982
Glenn Preininger, Class of 1976
Craig Rippole, Class of 1989
Joe Shazer, Coach, 1988-1991
John Salamon, Class of 1990
Marvin Thomas, Class of 1993
Danny Vete, Class of 1975
Steve Wargo, Coach, 1970-1975
PA Fish and Boat Commission Announce Adult Trout Stocking Schedule
The Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission recently announced the Adult Trout Stocking schedule for 2012. If you are a trout angler and are interested in assisting or viewing the stocking process, you can visit the Fish and Boat Commission’s website for a stocking schedule. Trout season opens statewide on April 14th. For more information on opening day, licensing information, size requirement, schedules and more, please visit the 2012 Fast Facts page provided by the Fish and Boat Commission.
In 2011, the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission stocked approximately 3.2 million adult trout in the waters of the Commonwealth open to public angling.
Offices of State Senator Wayne D. Fontana