Newly Enacted Laws
In 2015, Governor Wolf signed into law 96 new acts. Although not all new laws are listed below, here are some noteworthy ones:
- Act 1 – Expands the $100,000 death benefit application period from 90 days to three years to the family of a law enforcement officer, ambulance service or rescue squad member, firefighter, certified hazardous material response team member, or National Guard member who died as a result of performing their duty. This extension will grant a family applying additional time due to complex legal/estate issues. The death benefit was also extended to campus police who are employees of state-aided/related universities and members of the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education who successfully completed a campus police course of training under the Municipal Police Officer Training and Education Commission.
- Act 6 – Requires the condition and responsibility of a storm water facility for a property on a property disclosure statement.
- Act 8 – Allows pharmacists to administer influenza vaccinations to children age 9 or older with parental consent. Before passage of this law, pharmacists were only able to administer vaccinations to adults ages 18 or older.
- Act 10 – Increases the criminal grading for a person who impersonates a doctor of medicine and provides medical treatment, from a second degree misdemeanor to a first degree misdemeanor.
- Act 11 – Provides for reduced tuition rates at community colleges and state related/owned institutions for veterans, their spouses, and their dependents. The benefit also applies when a veteran qualifies for the Post 9/11 GI Education Program, surviving spouse or child under federal survivor’s and dependent’s education assistance program, active reserve or National Guard, or active duty members on temporary medical leave due to a service connected issue.
- Act 12 – Updates and modernizes the 911 Public Safety Emergency Telephone Act and improves the 911 calling system.
- Act 17 and Act 18 – Creates an “Honoring Our Veterans” license plate for motorcycles and dedicates a portion of the funding to the Veterans Trust Fund that helps veterans in need with food, utilities, mortgage or rent payments, health care and other necessities of life.
- Act 24 – Establishes a new subsection that anyone knowingly possessing animal fighting paraphernalia will be subjected to a misdemeanor of the third degree, up to one year in jail and a fine of up to $2,500, in addition to any other penalties provided by law. Animal fighting paraphernalia includes any device, implement, object or drug used, or intended to be used, for animal fighting, to train an animal for animal fighting or in furtherance of animal fighting.
- Act 25 – Requires municipal police officers and magisterial district judges receive training that provides: (1) recognition of mental illness, intellectual disabilities and autism; (2) proper techniques to interact with and de-escalate individuals suffering from mental health episodes or episodes stemming from intellectual disabilities or autism, and (3) instruction on services available to individuals with mental illness, intellectual disabilities or autism.
- Act 26 – Classifies cyber harassment as a third degree misdemeanor where a person, with the intent to harass, annoy or alarm a child, engages in the continuing course of conduct to a child through electronic means or publishing through an electronic social media service.
- Act 32 – Upon conviction, any person who falsely represents himself as a veteran of the United States Armed Forces on a driver’s license or identification card will be committing a misdemeanor of the third degree.
- Act 33 – Creates the Ready to Succeed Scholarship Act to help defray the cost of attending a state grant approved institution. For qualifying families, annual income under $110,000, students with 3.25 or higher GPA may apply to receive $500 - $2,000 to assist with the cost of books, tuition, fees, etc.
- Act 34 – Grants municipalities the ability to address dilapidated properties sooner than they currently can by lowering the number of code violations that would trigger when a criminal offense can be charged.
- Act 39 – Ensures that individuals seeking physical therapy, chiropractic, or occupational therapy are not charged multiple copayments for these services.
- Act 40 – Requires a person convicted of certain sexual offenses (rape, statutory sexual assault, sexual assault, institutional sexual assault and incest) which resulted in the conception of a child to continue to pay child support, even if parental rights have been terminated. In addition, no court shall award any type of custody to a parent of a child conceived as a result of any of the offenses.
- Act 44 – Allows youth ages 12 and older to be employed as an umpire or referee.
- Act 50 – Extends the application deadline to apply for the Persian Gulf Conflict Veterans' Benefits Program to December 31, 2019. This one-time benefit of $75 per month for each month (or major fraction thereof) is available for active service in the Persian Gulf Conflict Theater of Operations during the covered period. The maximum compensation is $525. An additional one-time benefit of $5,000 if the service member was declared a prisoner of war at any time in Theater during the period of qualifying service.
- Act 54 – Excuses from jury duty persons 75 years of age or older who request to be excused, judges and magisterial district judges of the Commonwealth and judges of the United States, and women who are breastfeeding and request to be excused.
- Act 57 – Gives authorization to legitimate first responder organizations (volunteer fire, rescue, EMS, law enforcement) to solicit donations (coin toss/boot drives) at intersections that have a stop sign or traffic signal. It would also give municipalities immunity from liability.
- Act 60 – Allows dentists licensed in other states or countries to teach and take clinical continuing education courses offered by a Pennsylvania dental school.
- Act 62 – Provides for an increase in the mandatory retirement age for judges and magisterial district judges, from 70 to 75 years, in the event that a corresponding amendment is made to the PA Constitution.
- Act 78 - The bill amends the Board of Vehicles Act to clarify that a licensed sales person may sell at more than one dealership provided that common ownership exists between the dealerships.
- Act 90 - Creates the Taxpayer-Funded Advertising Transparency Act to require Commonwealth agencies that pay for advertisements to include the statement: “Paid for with Pennsylvania taxpayer dollars.”
- Act 91 – Provides that those enrolled in PACE and PACENET will remain eligible if their income limit is exceeded due to the recent Social Security cost-of-living adjustment (“COLA”).
All Senate offices will be closed on Monday, Jan. 18 in observance of the Dr. Martin Luther King holiday. My offices will re-open on Tuesday, Jan. 19 as scheduled.
Honoring Dr. King
The Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday provides all of us the opportunity to pause and honor the life and legacy of Dr. King. By using the power of words and acts of nonviolent resistance, Dr. King led a movement that brought profound changes in our attitudes toward one another and provided hope and inspiration to millions while helping to bridge the cultural divide. He dedicated his life campaigning for racial justice and equality, also serving as an advocate for the poor.
The Martin Luther King Jr. holiday also is recognized as a National Day of Service. Next Monday, Jan. 18, people from communities across America will have the chance to come together, and work together on projects, and/or to solve problems. Please visit www.mlkday.gov to learn more about the National Day of Service and if you are interested in finding projects in your area, or to register one.
DEP Urges Home Radon Testing
The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) is encouraging Pennsylvanians to test their homes for radon, a deadly radioactive gas, and urging residents to take action to reduce radon levels in their homes if they are high. Due to Pennsylvania’s geology, radon is found everywhere in the commonwealth.
January is Radon Action Month and is a great time to test your home since doors and windows are typically closed and tightly sealed, which yield the most accurate results. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency sets the “action level” for radon at 4 picocuries per liter (pCi/L) of air. Residents with levels at or above that figure should take steps to lower them.
Testing for radon is the only way to know if a home, school, workplace or other structure has elevated concentrations of radon. Test kits can be purchased at most hardware or home improvement stores at an average cost of $15 to $25 per test. If you are uncomfortable doing the testing yourself you can hire a state-certified radon tester, or if you are selling your home and want a radon test, it is best to hire a certified tester. The cost of a mitigation system typically ranges around $1,000.
Pennsylvania law requires all radon service providers, such as radon testers, radon mitigators and radon laboratories to be certified by DEP. The list of Pennsylvania-certified radon service providers is updated monthly and available on DEP’s website at www.dep.pa.gov. You can also obtain a hard copy of the directory or verify a company’s certification by calling 1-800-23-RADON. For people buying or selling a home, Pennsylvania’s Real Estate Seller Disclosure Act requires sellers to disclose the results of any known radon testing and DEP’s website also lists radon testing options for real estate transactions.
For anyone building a new home, DEP recommends installing a passive radon system during construction. If high radon levels are found when the home is completed, a fan can be readily installed. Some reasons to install a radon system during construction include:
- There is no reliable way to test the ground in advance for radon.
- The average residential radon level in Pennsylvania is 7-8 picocuries per liter.
- The cost of installing the radon system during construction should be less than installing one after the fact.
- Building the radon system internally should keep aesthetics of the home intact. If radon is not addressed during construction, an outside radon system may be required if the radon test comes back greater than 4 picocuries per liter.
For more information about radon testing and radon resistant construction, please visit www.dep.pa.gov/radon.
Did You Know…
Did you know that radon is the leading cause of lung cancer in non-smokers in the United States?
Slot Machine Revenue Increases in 2015
The Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board announced last week that gross revenue from the play of slot machines at the state’s 12 casinos during the 2015 calendar year increased two percent over 2014, and topped $2.3 billion for the fifth straight year. Gross revenue from slot machines was over $2.365 billion in 2015, more than the 2014 total of $2.310 billion. Tax revenue generated from slot machines in 2015 was over $1.26 billion.
It was also announced that gross revenue from slot machines increased almost five percent in December compared with the same month in 2014. Gross revenue from slot machines in December totaled over $197 million compared to around $188 million generated in December 2014.
Slot machines are taxed at 55 percent in Pennsylvania and directed as follows: 34 percent for property tax reduction; 12 percent supporting the horse racing industry; five percent is placed in a state economic development fund; and two percent goes to local governments that host casinos.
The state’s gaming industry employs over 17,700 people and generates an average of $3.7 million per day in tax revenue from both slot machines and table games. For more information on gaming in Pennsylvania and to read reports from the Gaming Control Board, please visit them online at www.gamingcontrolboard.pa.gov.
Christmas Tree Recycling Program
The Christmas Tree Recycling program operated by the Allegheny County Department of Parks concludes this Saturday. Residents of Allegheny County can drop off their Christmas trees at all nine regional parks during the hours of operation, from dusk to dawn.
All lights, decorations, tinsel and stands must be removed from trees prior to drop-off. The trees will be mulched and used in Allegheny County’s nine regional parks. Trees may be dropped off from dawn to dusk at the following locations in each of the parks:
- Boyce Park – parking lot by the wave pool
- Deer Lakes – parking lot by the Veterans Shelter
- Harrison Hills – parking lot at the intersection of Chipmunk & Cottontail Drives
- Hartwood Acres – parking lot at the mansion
- North Park – parking lot at the swimming pool
- Round Hill – parking lot between Meadow & Alfalfa Shelters
- Settler’s Cabin – parking lot by the wave pool
- South Park – parking lot by the swimming pool
- White Oak – parking lot by Poplar Shelter
For directions to each park, please visit http://www.alleghenycounty.us/parks/index.aspx.
Money Magazine recently named Pittsburgh as the top ranked “Big City” in the Northeast United States to live. The report labeled Pittsburgh as a “rust-belt city transforming itself with homegrown, high-tech talent.”
Offices of State Senator Wayne D. Fontana
|| Brookline District
932 Brookline Blvd.
Pittsburgh, PA 15226
Weekdays – 9 am – 5 pm
543 Main Capitol
Harrisburg, PA 17120
Weekdays – 8:30 am – 5 pm
524 Pine Hollow Road
Weekdays – 10 am – 4 pm
|| Beechview Satellite
1660 Broadway Avenue
Pittsburgh, PA 15216
Tuesdays – 10 am – 4 pm
|Strip District (Mobile Office)
Pittsburgh Public Market
2401 Penn Avenue
Pittsburgh, PA 15222
Thursdays – 10 am – 4 pm
|Northside (Mobile Office)
1230 Federal Street
Pittsburgh, PA 15212
Wednesdays – 10 am – 4 pm