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Senator Wayne D. Fontana

 

Early Voting Legislation

voteWith Election Day a week away, I think now is the perfect time to highlight a bill I introduced during the 2013-14 legislative session that pertains to early voting.  Currently, there are 33 states and the District of Columbia where any qualified voter may cast a ballot in person during a designated period prior to Election Day with no excuse or justification required to do so.  With more than half of the nation granting their residents this right, it seems that the Commonwealth should follow suit and adopt this law as well. 

Specifically, my Senate Bill 900 (SB 900) would grant each county the ability to start voting 15 days prior to the dates of elections.  The county elections board in each county would designate early voting sites.  These sites would have to be geographically located to provide electors an equal opportunity to cast a ballot. 

Furthermore, under SB 900, the county board would designate uniform days and hours for the early voting sites as well as require the sites be open at least eight hours each weekday, open a minimum of an aggregate eight hours each weekend and cannot close before 7p.m. 

To put the numbers in perspective, as of October 21, 2014, more than 904,000 Americans had already casted their ballot for this year’s November 4th General Election.  Unfortunately, not a single vote has been cast by a Pennsylvania resident. 

Over the years, I have heard from a number of constituents that have expressed they could not vote or have found it difficult to vote because the days and times were inconvenient to their busy schedules.  Others have expressed they do not have the time to spend waiting in long lines at the polling sites.  Although SB 900 was never considered in committee during the 2013-14 legislative session, I plan to reintroduce this bill in January because my legislation would give municipalities and voters another option to make sure everyone has the ability to exercise their constitutional right to vote.  

Did You Know…

During the 2012 presidential election, of the 129 million people who voted, 35.8 percent of them did so before Election Day?

Offices Closed

All Senate offices will be closed on Tuesday, November 4th for Election Day.  My offices will re-open on Wednesday, November 5th as scheduled.

 

Information for Election Day

Vote PA Vote PA Vote PA For any questions related to voting, I encourage you to visit www.votespa.com.  This site has information on your rights as a voter, answers to frequently asked questions, and allows you to confirm your registration and polling place.  Below is additional information about the November 4th Election.  If you need any further assistance, or have any additional questions, please call one of my district offices and my staff will gladly assist you.

Deadline to Request Absentee Ballots

Any voter who needs an absentee ballot for the November 4th Election must complete and return the application to the Allegheny County Elections Division by 5 p.m. today.  The Elections Division is located in the County Office Building, 542 Forbes Avenue, Room 604 in downtown Pittsburgh.  You can download and print an absentee ballot application by clicking here or can pick one up at any of my district offices.  For fastest results, you may visit the Elections Division office and complete an application in person.  If properly registered, you will be handed an absentee ballot on the spot.

Anyone voting by absentee ballot will be required to provide a PA Driver’s License number, PennDOT ID number, or last four digits of Social Security Number.  If you do not possess any of the aforementioned items, a copy of an acceptable ID must be provided with the application. 

Completed absentee ballots must be received by the Elections Division office by 5 p.m. this Friday, October 31st.  

Polling Place Locator

If you are a newly-registered voter, have recently moved or have not voted in awhile, and are unsure where your polling place is located, you can visit the Polling Place Locator Page at www.county.allegheny.pa.us/elect/index.aspx.  You will be asked to enter your municipality, house number and street name.  Once that information is entered, the site will inform you of your polling place and provide the address.  You will also be provided an opportunity to enter your name and birth date to determine if you are a registered voter and will also be able to view the ballot you will be presented with at your polling place.  If you are unable to find your polling place on this site, or if any of your information is listed incorrectly on the site, please contact the Elections Division office at 412-350-4500.

How to Register Election Day Complaints

Any registered voter who wishes to file a complaint about alleged election law violations can do so by visiting www.votespa.com and clicking on the “Election Complaints” tab.  The voter will be asked to enter their first and last name, address, county of residence, and date of birth to ensure they are a registered voter.  Once submitted, these complaint forms will be directed to the county election board for the county in which the voter making the complaint resides.  Written statements of complaint are available at all polling places and the Allegheny County Board of Elections.  You may also call 1-877-VOTES-PA (1-877-868-3772) to obtain a complaint statement.

LIHEAP Applications

Vote PA LIHEAP LIHEAP Beginning November 3rd, the Pennsylvania Department of Public Welfare (DPW) will be accepting applications for this season’s Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP).  The program helps low income families pay their heating bills.  You can apply and check the status of your application on the state’s COMPASS website.  You can also pick up an application in my district offices, or download one yourself from DPW’s LIHEAP website.  Completed paper applications should be returned to one of the Allegheny County Assistance Offices.

Funding for LIHEAP is provided by the federal government and eligibility is based on Federal Poverty Income Guidelines.  The income limits for this season are as follows:

Household Size

Income Limit

1

$17,505

2

$23,595

3

$29,685

4

$35,775

5

$41,865

6

$47,955

7

$54,045

8

$60,135

9

$66,225

10

$72,315

After your application is received, you will receive a written notice explaining your eligibility and the amount of assistance you will receive.  Payments are generally sent directly to a utility company or fuel dealer and are credited to your account.  For more information, please contact the LIHEAP hotline at 1-866-857-7095.               

Small Business Advantage Grants

Small BusinessThe Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) is accepting applications for Small Business Advantage Grants.  These grants finance pollution prevention and energy efficiency projects and provide funding to projects that include auxiliary power units deployed as anti-idling technology for trucks, HVAC and boiler upgrades, high-efficiency lighting, solvent recovery systems, and waste recycling systems.  Applicants must be a for-profit corporation, Limited Liability Corporation, partnership, sole proprietorship or other legal entity with 100 or fewer full-time employees. 

Businesses can apply for 50 percent matching funds of up to $9,500 to adopt or acquire energy-efficient or pollution-prevention equipment or procedures.  Applicants will be considered on a first come, first served basis and applications will be accepted until fiscal year 2014-15 funds are exhausted or April 15, 2015, whichever occurs first.

Anyone interested in applying can visit www.dep.state.pa.us and click on the “Small Business Advantage Grant” button.  For further assistance, please contact the Small Business Ombudsman’s Office at 717-772-5160 or epadvantagegrant@pa.gov.

Environmental Education Grants

The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) is now accepting applications for the 2015 Environmental Education Grants.  Schools, colleges and universities, county conservation districts, nonprofit organizations, municipalities and businesses are all invited to apply.  These grants are used to provide funding to develop programs and projects that support environmental education about issues including:  watersheds; air quality; brownfields; energy; environmental literacy; and environmental education certification.  Eligible projects include but are not limited to:  teacher professional development; curriculum DEP DEP 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.  The maximum grant award is $3,000.

Anyone 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 19th.

 

County Health Department Public Meetings Continue

ACHD ACHD As I wrote about in September, the Allegheny County Health Department (ACHD) is hosting a series of public meetings this fall, in each of the 13 County Council Districts, to engage the public in a community discussion about health issues.  The ACHD will present the findings of their first major Community Health Assessment and hear from residents about health issues and problems in each community, and discuss the best ways to improve health for County residents.

Residents are encouraged to attend the meeting in their County Council District, but are welcome to attend any of the other meetings.  Meetings began in late September but five meetings remain.  To view the listing of remaining meetings please visit http://www.achd.net/~communitymeeting/.  For more information on the ACHD’s public meetings, please contact Casey Monroe at 412-578-8364 or cmonroe@achd.net.

 

El Sistema

El SistemaEl Sistema is a philosophy of music education created in Venezuela in 1975.  It is the brainchild of Venezuelan musician Dr. Jose Antonio Abreu.  At the root of this philosophy is the idea that music education, specifically classical music education, can and should be used as a means of uplifting and unifying an underserved community, starting with the youth.

El Sistema Pittsburgh was established by members highly educated on the El Sistema model.  The program aims to enrich the lives of Pittsburgh’s youth by providing accessible and intensive music education.  Through the pursuit of musical excellence, children learn valuable skills that contribute to their success in and beyond the classroom.

To that end, El Sistema Pittsburgh is seeking donations, including instruments that no longer are being used.  For more information on El Sistema Pittsburgh programs and/or donations, please contact CEO Ronald Siso at 918-902-7296 or rsiso@elsistemapittsburgh.org.  You can also learn more online at www.elsistemapittsburgh.org.

Fontana Fact

According to the National Retail Federation, over 67 percent of American adults and children will purchase Halloween costumes in 2014 and over $2.2 billion will be spent on Halloween candy.

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
El Sistema