Public Welfare Programs
As I mentioned in last week's edition of my News & Views, the Senate passed a budget for 2012-13 on May 9th that raises the spending level by $500 million over what was proposed by the Governor in February, and restores a total of $650 million from the governor’s original cuts from the current year budget (2011-12).
Senate Bill 1466 (SB 1466) includes the restoration of $84 million of the $168 million for the county human services program. SB 1466 also adds $10 million for persons with disabilities and restores $35 million for hospitals and nursing homes. As I also mentioned last week, while this budget falls short in several areas, the proposal does represent a positive shift in the priorities. Demanding more, the Senate Democrats offered amendments to SB 1466 to restore additional funding to the budget, including an amendment to restore all funding for the county human services program. That amendment, along with the others offered by me and my Senate Democrat colleagues failed. SB 1466 is now before the House of Representatives for consideration.
A related issue, tied to last year’s budget, has begun to rise. House Bill 960 (HB 960), which later became Act 22 of 2011, gave the Department of Public Welfare (DPW) Secretary unilateral authority, with no legislative oversight, to implement regulations to reduce $400 million in spending on programs within the Department in the current fiscal year. Thus far, the new DPW regulations implement co-payments for subsidized child care, lower medical assistance payments to nursing homes and managed care organizations, reduce the number of service providers for home-based care for the physically disabled, and limit medical assistance recipients to six drug prescriptions a month.
Proponents of Act 22 cited a need to eliminate fraud and waste in welfare programs; however, these new regulations are hurting those individuals that are in dire need of assistance and who do not “take advantage of the system.” While I continue to advocate for funding of the programs within DPW that so many of my constituents rely upon, I encourage you to contact the Administration and DPW and let them know that these new regulations are increasing an already heavy burden on citizens that need the most support.
Memorial Day is a time to join together as a nation to honor the brave men and women who made the ultimate sacrifice for our country. Originally known as Decoration Day to honor soldiers who died in defense of their country during the Civil War, it was extended to honor those who died in all American wars soon after World War I. Congress declared Memorial Day an official federal holiday in 1971. In observance of the holiday, many Americans visit cemeteries and memorials, and volunteers place American flags on graves at national cemeteries. Each year a national moment of remembrance takes place at 3 p.m. local time to encourage all Americans to pause for a minute in an act of unity. It is important to remember that we are free today thanks to the fallen heroes of our country’s armed forces.
All Senate offices will be closed on Monday, May 28th in observance of Memorial Day. My offices will re-open on Tuesday, May 29th as scheduled.
New Pennsylvania Fair Guide
The PA Department of Agriculture announced recently that 2012 Pennsylvania Fair Guides are now available, both in print and online. The online version is available at www.agriculture.state.pa.us or by clicking here. The Fair Guide offers information on the dates and locations of more than 100 fairs that combine farms, food and fun, held across the Commonwealth this year.
New this year is PA Preferred™, the official brand of agriculture commodities grown or made in the state. The program’s logo, a gold checkmark inside a blue keystone, makes it easy for consumers to identify and buy agricultural products produced here by our farmers and businesses. PA Preferred ™ is sponsoring chocolate baking contests at each fair. For more information about contest rules contact your local fair. For more information about PA Preferred ™, visit www.PAPreferred.com.
For more information about Pennsylvania Fairs, please contact Boots Hetherington at 717-787-6298.
PA Fish & Boat Commission National Safe Boating Week
This week is National Safe Boating Week and the PA Fish & Boat Commission (PFBC) is reminding boaters to practice safe and responsible boating by always wearing a life jacket and by being alert on the water. Each year, on average, 700 people die in boating-related accidents nationwide and 80% of the victims were not wearing a life jacket. Last year in Pennsylvania, 22 boaters died as a result of recreational boating accidents and only three were wearing a life jacket at the time of the accident.
All boats must have a U.S. Coast Guard approved wearable (Type I, II, III, or V) life jacket on board for each person. Children 12 years of age and younger must wear their life jackets while underway on any boat 20 feet or less in length and on all canoes and kayaks.
Boaters can demonstrate their personal commitment to wearing a life jacket by visiting the PFBC website and submitting the online “Wear It in Pennsylvania!” pledge form. The pledge form and a special video by PFBC Executive Director John Arway speaking on the importance of life jackets can be found at www.fishandboat.com/wear-it-message.htm. In addition to taking the life jacket pledge, boaters can send in their life-saving stories on how they were “Saved By the Jacket” at www.fishandboat.com/savelives.
For more information on boating safety, including information on taking a boating safety education course, please visit the PFBC's website.
PA American Water Completes Upgrades Pittsburgh System
Pennsylvania American Water has completed the first portion of their $101 million upgrade to the Pittsburgh system, including upgrades at the Arlington Booster Station. Located in Arlington, the booster station helps pump water to key service areas. It also ensures fire protection in the event that the Hays Mine Plant is unavailable during maintenance and times of emergency.
The approximately $1 million investment included the installation of new chemical storage and feed facilities, which will improve public safety by replacing gas chlorine with liquid chlorine to address concerns associated with chlorine gas storage. The project also included beautification and landscaping of the facility as PA American Water employees and members of the Hilltop Alliance and Allentown Community Development Corporation planted flowers in the new garden located on the facility’s property at the intersection of Knox and Arlington Avenues.
Green Tree Farmers’ Market
The Green Tree Farmers’ Market began on May 17th and will run on Thursdays through October 25th at Green Tree Park in the lower parking lot on Green Tree Road. New this year, customers can pre-order their favorite Market item to be picked up at the Farmers’ Market. To view a listing of vendors taking pre-orders and for a listing of all vendors present at the Market, please visit www.greentreeboro.com/vendors.html. The Farmers’ Market will have hours of operation from 4 – 7 p.m. during May and June and 4 – 7:30 p.m., July through October.
The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette recently published a comprehensive listing of Farmers’ Markets throughout the region. You can access this listing by visiting the Post-Gazette’s website at www.post-gazette.com or by clicking on this link.
Point Park Baseball Reaches World Series
Congratulations to the Point Park University baseball team on reaching the NAIA World Series! Point Park is one of 10 teams in the 2012 NAIA World Series, advancing through a field that began with 46 teams. The Pioneers have an overall record this season of 51-9 and will be making their 11th all-time appearance in the NAIA World Series and their first since 1998.
The 2012 NAIA World Series is being held in Lewiston, Idaho. Point Park's first game is scheduled for May 25th against the College of Idaho. The double elimination tournament concludes on June 1st.
Best of luck to the Pioneers!
Did You Know…
Did you know that 10 members of Point Park's baseball team hail from Pennsylvania including sophomore Tim Birko from Kennedy Township and senior Lee Bodnar from Scott Township? Tim is a graduate of Montour High School and Lee graduated from Chartiers Valley High School.
Castle Shannon Community Day
Castle Shannon Borough is hosting their 5th Annual Community Day on May 27th at Hamilton Park. Over 30 vendors will have booths at the all-day festival and the family-oriented event will also feature clowns, a face painting station, jugglers, multiple air castles and tunnels, and skill and fun games. Featured music includes Kenny Blake and the Witch Doctors, The Stickers, Rhythms of Life, and Jonny Angel & The Halos and the day will be capped off with a fireworks display. Free shuttle bus service will be provided from the Fire Department Memorial lot to the park from 2 – 10:30 p.m. For more information on Castle Shannon Community Day, please visit the Borough’s website at www.borough.castle-shannon.pa.us.
Soldiers & Sailors Memorial Hall & Museum in Oakland is the largest memorial building in the United States dedicated solely to America’s fighting personnel, representing all branches of service while honoring both the career and citizen soldier. It is the mission of Soldiers & Sailors to preserve a lasting tribute to those men and women who unselfishly gave of themselves in serving their country during American wars.
Offices of State Senator Wayne D. Fontana