Senator Fontana was invited to tour Soldiers & Sailors Memorial Hall & Museum on September 11th. He was joined by Tim Neff, Director of Education, Michael Kruas, Curator and John F. McCabe, President & CEO.
Two Big Supreme Court Rulings
In what will be an historic day, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court is scheduled to hear arguments in two major appeals cases this week. Arguments will be held on Thursday, September 13th, to challenge the state's recently enacted voter ID law, and the appeal to the adopted legislative redistricting plan. Both cases play a significant role in impacting voters, making the appeals some of the most highly anticipated decisions in generations.
Earlier this year, the Pennsylvania General Assembly passed one of the nation’s toughest requirements for voter identification to participate in elections. Proponents have expressed that this requirement will prevent future voter fraud whereas opponents such as myself have argued that the mandate will disenfranchise tens of thousands, possibly even hundreds of thousands of voters. What makes the arguments even more pressing is that the Supreme Court will determine if the voter ID requirement will remain in place for the November 6th General Election in Pennsylvania.
The legislative redistricting plan, which is required by the Pennsylvania Constitution each decade following the federal census, sets the state's Senate and House districts for the next decade beginning in 2014. A Legislative Reappointment Commission is then established by legislative leaders who are given the task of redrawing district boundaries. This process guarantees that each citizen is equally represented as population shifts and changes take place throughout the state. However, the redistricting process is also highly partisan because of the ability to draw maps that favor one political party for many years to come.
An earlier version of the Legislative Reappointment Commission plan was rejected in January of this year by the Supreme Court with a 4-3 vote. In an unusual move, Chief Justice Ron Castille sided with plaintiffs and determined that the commission’s plan was unconstitutional because the redistricting map split up too many municipalities and drew some districts into shapes that were not properly compact, also known as “gerrymandering.” This opinion forced the commission to go back to the drawing board and create a new map, resulting in several new challenges bringing the plan back in front of the Supreme Court.
To add to the anticipation, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court decisions will also have the potential to be deadlocks. Typically, the high court is made up of seven justices. Due to one justice being suspended by the court, there are now three justices elected as Republicans and three justices elected as Democrats. As current history has shown, there is a possibility of swing votes with these Republican-supported laws.
Knowing the controversy surrounding voter identification and redistricting and realizing the probable stalemates, the Pennsylvania Bar Association, in a June 5 letter to Chief Justice Ron Castille, urged the high court to appoint a seventh justice to serve to prevent possible tie votes on pending appeals. However, this request was denied.
Most court watchers are expecting a party line vote of 3-3 when it comes to the Voter ID case. Since Commonwealth Court Judge Robin Simpson already upheld the mandate, a tie will sustain the law.
However, when it comes to redistricting, no one can really predict how Chief Justice Castille will rule. With that being said, since the final districts do not need to be determined until late 2013, Justice Castille may order a special master and let the court draw the next map instead.
No matter which political party a citizen may side with, these two court cases are sure to bring in a lot of attention across the state. The Supreme Court will begin to hear arguments on the voter ID case, in Philadelphia, starting at 9:30 a.m. with reappointment following during the afternoon session. The public can watch the arguments live on the Pennsylvania Cable Network (PCN) at www.pcntv.com.
It was eleven years ago today that the United States was attacked by terrorists with the extremist group al-Qaeda. The horrific events that morning claimed over 3,000 innocent American lives. On this day, I ask you to join me in honoring those who lost their lives on September 11, 2001. These innocent people were mothers and fathers, daughters and sons, sisters and brothers, friends and co-workers. We also pay tribute this day to those who sacrificed their lives on September 11th to help others and to those who continue to make sacrifices for our country. First responders, police and firefighters, and our military all put their lives on the line in service of their country and their community. Many of these brave men and women lost their lives that day. Today we honor those fallen heroes and pay tribute to the men and women who dedicate their lives to protecting us every day.
In the days and weeks following the attacks on September 11th, the world saw Americans coming together, helping their neighbors, and helping complete strangers. Today, as we honor those who lost their lives in the tragic events of September 11th, let us reach for that same sense of strength, unity and togetherness. Let’s remember how caring and thoughtful we were as a nation during those dark days and incorporate that spirit into our daily lives.
Skills for Success Begins This Week
Skills for Success: The Fontana Series begins this week at the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh-Allegheny Branch on the North Side. As I have previously mentioned, I was proud to partner with CLP to provide grant funding for a free series aimed at building skills and creating excellent resumes and applications that aid job seekers in achieving the positions they desire.
The third installment of this series will begin on Thursday, September 13th. Rachel Masilamani and Richard Brzustowicz will lead the Skills for Success: The Fontana Series, bringing over 10 years combined experience assisting library visitors with job hunting, online applications and resume writing. This series will feature two separate workshops: one focused on resumes and cover letters, and the other dedicated to interviews and networking. This series will also contain a career lab where attendees can work on online applications and explore library resources. Here, individuals will 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.
In an effort to get more individuals into these workshops and career labs, Skills for Success: The Fontana Series will visit a library branch on four consecutive dates before moving on to a different CLP branch. The fall schedule, featuring the first three branches, is listed below. To register for one of these free workshops, please email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 412-281-7141, ext. 2012.
CLP – Allegheny branch
1230 Federal Street
Pittsburgh, PA 15212
Thursday, Sept. 13 – Resumes & Cover Letters
Friday, Sept. 14 – Interviewing & Networking
Thursday, Sept. 20 – Interviewing & Networking
Friday, Sept. 21 – Resumes & Cover Letters
Workshops – 10 a.m. – noon, Career Labs – noon – 2 p.m.
CLP – Knoxville branch
400 Brownsville Road
Pittsburgh, PA 15210
Thursday, Sept. 27 – Interviewing & Networking
Friday, Sept. 28 – Resumes & Cover Letters
Thursday, Oct. 4 – Resumes & Cover Letters
Friday, Oct. 5 – Interviewing & Networking
Workshops – noon – 2 p.m., Career Labs – 2 – 4 p.m.
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.
Senator Fontana speaks to students at the West Liberty Elementary School to pay tribute to local heroes in attendance on September 11th.
FontanaFest this Saturday!
The 8th Annual FontanaFest is upon us! Join me this Saturday, September 15th from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. at South Side’s Riverfront Park (bottom of 18th Street at the river) for a FREE day of family fun! Enjoy FREE food and drink, entertainment, door prizes, numerous booth sponsors, and games for kids. The Pittsburgh Water Limo will be offering rides on our rivers between 12:30 and 2:30 p.m. and the PA Fish & Boat Commission will be providing canoes and kayaks so families can enjoy a smooth ride on the Monongahela. Kids will have the opportunity to visit with their favorite mascot as the Pittsburgh Pirate Parrot, Steely McBeam from the Steelers, Iceburgh from the Penguins, Freddy the Flame from Equitable Gas, and Smiley from Eat ‘n Park are all scheduled to attend. Over 30 participating organizations will be on hand providing activities for people of all ages. To learn more about the day’s events and for a listing of participating organizations, please visit www.fontanafest.com. I hope to see you there!
Slot Machine Revenues Continue to Rise
The PA Gaming Control Board announced last week that, in August, gross revenue from slot machines at the 11 operating casinos around the Commonwealth increased 5.7% compared with August 2011. The gross revenue from slots in August was over $210 million, generating over $113 million in tax revenue to the Commonwealth. The Rivers Casino in Pittsburgh generated nearly $24 million in gross revenue from slots during August, an increase of almost 5% from the same month last year.
Did You Know…
Did you know for every dollar produced as revenue from slot machine play in Pennsylvania’s casinos, 55 cents is returned to Pennsylvanians, including funds to support the Property Tax/Rent Rebate Program?
Fire Company/Volunteer Ambulance Grants
On September 5th, the PA Office of the State Fire Commissioner (OSFC) announced the online application process for the 2012-13 Fire Company, Volunteer Ambulance Service Grant Program (FCVASGP) is open. The application for eligible fire companies and volunteer ambulance services will remain open until October 19th at 4 p.m. No applications will be accepted after October 19th.
All fire companies, volunteer ambulance services, and volunteer rescue squads are eligible to apply for grant funding. Organizations may apply for grant funding for construction or renovation of facilities or to purchase or repair fixtures or furnishings necessary to maintain or improve the capability to provide services. The purchase or repair of equipment, debt reduction and the training and certification of members are also eligible for funding.
Applications are available online by visiting the OSFC website. For organizations that submitted a grant application last year, you must create a new User ID and Password in order to access the 2012-13 Grant Application.
PennDOT Launches Facebook Page
The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) has launched a new Facebook page, providing Pennsylvanians another means to interact with the agency and locate valuable transportation news and tips. The page can be located at http://www.facebook.com/PennsylvaniaDepartmentofTransportation.
The new page features:
- Available resources for travel and construction information
- Information on highway safety including free resources, enforcement and traffic safety laws
- Information on driver’s license and motor vehicle operations, including convenient online services
- Descriptions of PennDOT’s many services available to the public
- Featured PennDOT job opportunities
The new Facebook page will not report traffic or road conditions. Travelers are encouraged to visit www.511PA.com or call 5-1-1 for current traffic conditions.
CLP-South Side Re-Opens
On September 8th the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh (CLP) re-opened its South Side branch after a $2.7 million renovation that took place over the last year. Library visitors will enjoy a new sky lit Reading Lounge and the Children’s Room has been updated to accommodate additional computers, wireless technology and outlets for portable electronic devices. An elevator has been installed ensuring that all three levels of the library are fully accessible and the building’s basement now features a large Meeting Room that can accommodate up to 100 people.
For the first time in its 103-year history, CLP-South Side will have air conditioning as a geothermal heating & cooling system was installed. This system, the first of its kind in a Pittsburgh library, will keep the building cool in the summer while eliminating the need of natural gas to heat the facility in the cold winter months, providing the library with substantial energy cost savings. The renovation project also features reconditioned existing windows, new insulation and a slate roof.
Congratulations to Mary Frances Cooper and the all the staff at CLP for your efforts to transform one of the city’s oldest neighborhood libraries into a modern facility while maintaining the charm and characteristics that make it a special venue. The CLP-South Side branch is located at 2205 East Carson Street on Pittsburgh’s South Side.
High School Sports Update
The high school football season is underway. Below are some of the highlights from the district during week 2:
- Chartiers Valley defeated Hopewell, 34-33 in overtime. Michael Boulos scored on touchdown runs of 76 and 25 yards and returned an interception for a touchdown.
- Northgate defeated West Shamokin 47-12 behind Cody Walter’s three rushing touchdowns. Walter also threw and touchdown pass and returned a punt for a touchdown.
- Sto-Rox improved to 2-0 with a 49-13 with over South Side Beaver. Brendan Blair rushed for four touchdowns and 148 yards in the win.
- Dorian Brown rushed for 167 yards and two touchdowns and Stephon Harris rushed for 131 yards and three touchdowns in Baldwin’s 35-7 win over Plum.
- Seton-La Salle won their second straight game, 42-0 over McGuffey. Luke Brumbaugh threw three touchdown passes and Rick Mellick ran for two scores and caught another.
- Chris Shortley threw two touchdown passes and rushed for another in Brentwood’s 35-28 loss to Monessen. Justin Vickless rushed for 177 yards and scored twice.
Below is this week’s high school football schedule. All games are Friday unless noted.
Week 3 High School Football Schedule
Baldwin @ Penn Hills, 7 p.m. (Thurs.)
Brashear @ Westinghouse, 7 p.m. (Thurs.)
Chartiers Valley @ Central Valley, 7 p.m.
Keystone Oaks @ Seton-La Salle, 7 p.m.
Sto-Rox @ Neshannock, 7 p.m.
Brentwood @ Imani Christian, 7:30 p.m.
Carlynton @ Bishop Canevin, 7:30 p.m.
Northgate @ North Catholic, 7:30 p.m.
Mohawk @ Montour, 7:10 p.m. (Saturday)
Running at the water’s edge of South Side Riverfront Park is the beginning of the South Side Riverfront Trail. A welcome five-mile route for hikers, cyclists and other outdoor enthusiasts, the Trail begins in the South Side Riverfront Park at the end of 18th Street and continues to 9th Street near Station Square. The trail also connects to picnic space, a public boat launch and canoe launch.
Offices of State Senator Wayne D. Fontana