Senator Fontana visited with seniors at St. Justin Plaza on Mt. Washington yesterday.
A Warning to Drivers
Senate Bill 290 (SB 290) was sent to Governor Wolf last week. This bill would require most first-time offenders of Driving Under the Influence (DUI) to install ignition interlocks on their vehicles. With graduation parties, holiday cookouts and warmer weather just weeks away from kicking off the summer months, this new law should serve as a reminder that it’s alright to celebrate but never okay to get behind the wheel after having a couple adult beverages.
An ignition interlock is a breath-testing device that is installed on the steering column of a motor vehicle that prevents engine ignition if a driver’s breath test measures above a certain BAC standard. In other words, an individual has to blow into the device, and if it detects alcohol, the vehicle will not start.
Current Pennsylvania law defines intoxicated drivers as those with a 0.08 percent blood-alcohol level. Installation and use of an ignition interlock device has been required since 2003 for second and subsequent DUI offenders. SB 290 expands the existing law by creating an ignition interlock limited license (IILL) that would allow individuals who are convicted first-time offenders with a Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) of 0.10 percent or higher to install an ignition interlock in a primary-use vehicle or any other vehicle they may operate in lieu of the one-year licenses suspension. The device would have to be used for at least 12 months, but the time frame could be extended if the driver in question has blown a 0.08 blood-alcohol test within the prior two months.
The interlock devices would not be available for use in commercial vehicles or to drivers involved in a DUI-fatality. Furthermore, a person who owns or partially owns a business may not use the employer exemption to circumvent the requirement to drive a vehicle with an ignition interlock. However, installation will allow an offender to continue to use their vehicle for things like work, school and other purposes so that they can go on with their lives without the risk of repeating their unfortunate mistake again.
Pennsylvania will join 48 other states that have some type of law requiring ignition interlocks for some level of first-time offenders. Advocacy groups like Mothers Against Drunk Drivers (MADD) and PA Parents Against Impaired Driving have pushed similar legislation since 2008 citing that nearly 2 million drunk-driving attempts have been stopped with ignition interlocks across the nation, including more than 78,000 in Pennsylvania between 2003 and 2015.
In 2014 alone, there were approximately 10,500 alcohol-related crashes in the commonwealth that resulted in 333 deaths according to the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation. This expansion of the law would extend interlock usage to more than 90 percent (30,000 people) of all DUI-alcohol offenders in the state according to 2015 arrest data.
This legislation is about saving lives while at the same time rehabilitating those who have made a mistake while practicing poor judgment. The provisions will not take effect for 15 months.
All Senate offices will be closed on Monday, May 30 in observance of Memorial Day. My offices will re-open on Tuesday, May 31 as scheduled.
Property Tax/Rent Rebate Program
The deadline to file for the Pennsylvania Department of Revenue 2015 Property Tax/Rent Rebate program is June 30. If you filed a paper rebate last year, you should have received a 2015 application by now. If you have not received an application, or did not apply last year and wish to apply this year, applications are available at www.revenue.pa.gov or at my district offices, and my staff would be happy to assist you in preparing your application.
The Property Tax/Rent Rebate program benefits eligible Pennsylvanians age 65 and over; widows and widowers age 50 and over; and people with disabilities age 18 and over. Homeowners with a maximum yearly income of $35,000 and renters with a maximum yearly income of $15,000 are eligible for a rebate. Keep in mind half of Social Security income is excluded. Some applicants who previously received rebates may continue to qualify despite Social Security cost-of-living adjustments that may have pushed their income past eligibility limits.
Upcoming Small Business Event
I want to make small business owners aware of an upcoming free event in Pittsburgh. The Pennsylvania Treasury Department is bringing its Small Business Initiative (SBI) to the University of Pittsburgh on Thursday, June 2. The SBI is being held on Pitt’s campus in Alumni Hall, located at 4227 Fifth Avenue from 7:45 a.m. – 2 p.m. Space is limited.
The SBI is a statewide initiative aimed at increasing revenue and job growth of Pennsylvania-based small businesses. It features an array of subject matter experts from the nation’s leading global and regional businesses to help small businesses address the most pressing issues affecting their businesses.
To register for this free event or for more information please call 717-787-2991 or visit www.patreasury.gov.
Overall Gaming Revenue Rises
The Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board announced last week that gross revenue from table games play at Pennsylvania’s 12 casinos during April was 11.6 percent higher than April 2015. Revenue generated from table games in April was over $72 million compared to $64.7 million generated in April 2015. Total tax revenue from table games in April was just over $10.2 million.
The increase in table games revenue during April combined with the earlier reported increase in slots revenue during the month resulted in an overall gaming revenue increase for the month of 3.9 percent over April 2015, marking the eighth consecutive month in which overall gaming revenue has increased.
Table games in Pennsylvania are taxed at 14 percent with the majority of that revenue directed into the state’s General Fund and the remaining funds directed to local governments. 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 17,000 people and generates more than $1.4 billion in tax revenue annually from both table games and slot machines. For more information on gaming in Pennsylvania and to read reports from the Gaming Control Board, please visit www.gamingcontrolboard.pa.gov.
Bike Route Mapping Tool
Last week the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) unveiled a new interactive mapping tool for bicycle routes in Pennsylvania. The bike route map uses layers to provide the user with detailed bike routes, traffic volumes and speed limits, and includes Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) trails, state parks, and state forests.
To access the interactive bike route map please visit www.penndot.gov. On the home page, you’ll find the “Ride A Bike” page under the “Travel in PA” tab at the top of the page. You may also access the page by clicking here. In addition to the bike route map, the page also offers information on Pennsylvania’s bicycle laws and safety tips for bicyclists and motorists and a copy of the Pennsylvania Bicycle Driver’s Manual.
Did You Know…
Did you know that in 2001 the number of trips made by bicycle in the United States was 1.7 billion and that by 2009 that number had risen to 4 billion?
I want to update Beechview residents on future developments along Broadway Avenue. The Urban Redevelopment Authority of Pittsburgh (URA) recently issued a public request for development proposals for properties located at 1600/1602, 1601 and 1619 Broadway Avenue. Atlas Development and its managing partner, Daniel Berkowitz submitted the winning proposal.
Atlas’ plans for these properties include a boutique hotel, residential living, retail, a restaurant and off street parking. More details are available by clicking here. Mr. Berkowitz has reached out to community leaders and residents and continues to do so. He welcomes feedback on his proposals and can be reached at Daniel@AtlasDevelopment.co.
I also want to remind everyone that the Port Authority of Allegheny County (PAT) has created a web page dedicated specifically to the light rail track reconstruction project which can be accessed by clicking here or visiting www.portauthority.org and clicking on the link titled “Red Line Construction” under Rider Alerts. Visitors can get updated information on the project, sign up to receive regular email updates, and communicate with other residents on a message board. You may also request information or ask questions about the project by contacting PAT via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
PAT began a necessary reconstruction project of the light rails that run along Broadway Avenue in Beechview on March 27. The project is expected to take approximately six months to complete and PAT reports that things are currently running on schedule.
During the project Beechview remains open for business so please continue patronizing local businesses!
As a member of the Board of Directors for the Redevelopment Authority of Allegheny County, I was proud to support funding recently for the Dormont Library for a critical retaining wall project. In existence for 80 years and at their current location for over 50 years, this funding will help enable them to continue their mission of empowering, educating, and inspiring the members of the Dormont community and surrounding area through a wide offering of social, academic, and community-based programming. I look forward to continuing to work with the new, inspired leadership that is emerging in this great neighborhood.
Report on Region’s Workforce
Earlier in May, the Allegheny Conference released a report titled, Inflection Point: Supply, Demand and the Future of Work in the Pittsburgh Region. This report details what will be a complete and dramatic transformation of the region’s workforce due to a wave of worker retirements, economic growth and occupational transitions. Anyone interested in reading the report can do so by clicking here or by visiting the Allegheny Conference online at www.alleghenyconference.org.
U.S. Census Bureau data shows there are roughly 29.5 million teenagers in the United States. SmartAsset.com gathered data on the 100 largest cities in the country and determined that Pittsburgh is the 3rd best city in the country for teens, trailing only Irvine, California and Madison, Wisconsin. Metrics included how much fun was available to teens, teen work environment, and how easy it is to get around.
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
|Northside (Mobile Office)
1230 Federal Street
Pittsburgh, PA 15212
Wednesdays – 10 am – 4 pm
|Lawrenceville (Mobile Office)
279 Fisk Street
Pittsburgh, PA 15201
Thursdays - 11 am - 4 pm