Improving Community-Police Relationships
Last week, I joined 19 other democratic state lawmakers for a joint Pennsylvania Senate and House Policy Committee hearing about the events that took place regarding Antwon Rose II and a range of topics like the police use of force, diversity education, oversight of law enforcement and community relations. The informative hearing lasted over three hours and featured a variety of testifiers including City of Pittsburgh Police Chief Scott Schubert, a representative from the ACLU, and the director of the state Human Relations Commission. I walked away with a number of questions due to the time constraint but will be reaching out to many of the testifiers in the coming days. I look forward to working with my legislative counterparts to draft meaningful legislation on how we can improve the current situation facing our communities and law enforcement.
For more information regarding the hearing, please click here.
Keystone Scholars Extended Statewide
On average, Pennsylvanians who pursue post-secondary education end up approximately $35,000 in debt - higher than any other state in the country. To help alleviate these costs, the Commonwealth has two “529” plans to help families save for higher education. The money placed into these college savings accounts grows through investment and can be used at an approved trade school, vocational program, community college and universities in and outside of Pennsylvania. More importantly, earnings on a 529 plan grow federal tax-free and are not taxed when the money is taken out for college.
Research has shown that a baby with a higher education savings account at birth is three times more likely to pursue education or training after high school, and four times more likely to graduate. However, a 2012 study by the U.S. Government Accountability Office found that less than 3 percent of families saved in a 529 plan in 2010. And those who did tended to be wealthier than those who did not. Pennsylvania currently has around 126,000 families enrolled in a 529 plan.
In February, the Pennsylvania State Treasurer Joe Torsella, members of the General Assembly and the Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency (PHEAA) launched the “Keystone Scholars” pilot program which gives every newborn child in certain counties $100 deposited into a 529 savings plan. Specifically, babies born or adopted between January 1, 2018 and December 31, 2018 in Delaware, Elk, Indiana, Luzerne, Mifflin and Westmoreland counties will be the first to receive a deposit. Since the inception, almost 400 college savings accounts have been created in these counties.
I am very happy to announce that Keystone Scholars has been expanded to include any infant born in Pennsylvania or adopted by state residents on or after January 1, 2019. These infants will be receiving $100 deposited into a 529 college savings plan. The deposit needs to be claimed by the child’s first birthday and used by age 29 for a qualified higher-education expense. If not claimed, the investment will return to Treasury. It’s imperative to point out that the program is funded entirely through Treasury’s existing surplus investment earnings, donations and endowments from the philanthropic community. No money comes from the General Fund.
Expansion of the Keystone Scholars program makes Pennsylvania the largest state in the country to roll out this type of higher education savings account. With more than 140,000 babies born annually in the commonwealth, I am hopeful that this incentive encourages parents and guardians to continue to invest in their children’s future by putting aside $25 a month into the 529 plan. By doing this, parents can help ease the financial burden so many students endure by seeking a higher education.
Multimodal Application Deadline
The deadline to apply for a Multimodal grant through the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development (DCED) is next Tuesday, July 31. All applications and all required supplemental information must be electronically submitted by the close of business July 31 in order to be considered at the Commonwealth Financing Authority November meeting.
Funding from this program may be used for the development, rehabilitation and enhancement of transportation assets to existing communities, streetscape, lighting, sidewalk enhancement, pedestrian safety, connectivity of transportation assets and transit-oriented development. Municipalities, Councils of Governments, Businesses, Economic Development Organizations, Public Transportation Agencies, and Ports-Rail/Freight companies are all eligible to apply for funding.
Applications and more information on the program can be accessed by clicking here.
Casino Gaming Revenue Up During 2017/2018 State Fiscal Year
The Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board last week announced that the combined gross revenue from the play of slot machines and table games during the 2017/2018 state fiscal year was the highest total to date.
The total revenue of $3,247,599,744 eclipsed the previous high state fiscal year total of $3,227,835,635 set during the 2015/2016 fiscal year and was 1.4 percent higher than the total revenue achieved last state fiscal year. The total increase was driven by the increases in both slot machines and table games revenue during the recently completed 2017/2018 state fiscal year compared to the previous fiscal year (0.7 percent and 3.3 percent respectively).
Table games revenue was up nine of the 12 months during the fiscal year, with total revenue in 2017/2018 of $895,278,807 compared to $866,518,820 during the 2016/2017 state fiscal year. Tax revenue produced through table games play was up 4 percent from $138 million in fiscal year 2016/2017 to $144 million in fiscal year 2017/2018. Estimated combined tax revenue from slot machines and table games for the 2017/2018 fiscal year was $1,336,946,353.
The state’s gaming industry employs over 18,000 people and generates approximately $1.4 billion annually 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.
Did You Know…
Did you know that locally, the Rivers Casino, experienced more than a 10 percent increase in revenue generated from tables games during the 2017/2018 fiscal year compared with last year?
Gaming Control Board Accepting License Applications for Sports Wagering
The Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board announced recently that it is accepting license applications for Operators, Manufacturers and Suppliers relative to Sports Wagering. Applications are available on the PGCB’s web site, www.gamingcontrolboard.pa.gov, under its licensure section.
A Sports Wagering Operator is licensed by the Board to operate sports wagering, a mobile sports wagering system or an interactive sports wagering system, through the provision of an interactive gaming or sports wagering platform, on behalf of sports wagering certificate holder.
A Sports Wagering Manufacturer builds, rebuilds, fabricates, assembles, produces, programs, designs, sells, leases, offers or otherwise makes modifications to any authorized sports wagering device or associated equipment for use or operation in this Commonwealth for sports wagering purposes.
A Sports Wagering Supplier provides, distributes or services any authorized sports wagering device or associated equipment for use or operation in this Commonwealth for sports wagering purposes that is not otherwise required to be licensed as a sports wagering manufacturer or, provides risk management services or integrity services to a sports wagering certificate holder or sports wagering operator.
Additional information on Sports Wagering can be found within the Frequently Asked Questions section accessible from the homepage of the Board’s website.
Summer Food Program for Children
Children ages 18 and younger can participate in the Allegheny County Summer Food program which began in mid-June. Summer Food will run in over 70 locations in Allegheny County through August. At these locations children can receive a free breakfast and lunch during the summer recess from school. For more information on the program, including information on locations and times, please call the Allegheny County Department of Human Services at 1-800-851-3838. You may also click here to view a listing of locations.
Brookline Breeze & Breezefest
The 37th annual Brookline Breeze 5K Run and Fitness Walk is scheduled for Saturday, August 11. The day begins at 7 a.m. with package pickup and pre-race registrations. The first event of the morning starts at 8:35 a.m. with the One-Mile Mini-Breeze for the young ones, followed by the One-Mile Dog Walk. The Mini-Breeze course is laid out around the perimeter of Brookline Park. Then, at 9:00 a.m., it's time for the main event, the 5K run/walk. Anyone interested in participating can visit http://www.brooklinebreeze.com/ for more information.
Following the race is the annual BreezeFest along Brookline Boulevard, running from 10 a.m. – 4 p.m., organized by the Brookline Chamber of Commerce. Breezefest features food, children’s activities, live music, and arts and crafts and sidewalk sales. For more information on Breezefest please visit www.brooklinenow.com.
VFW Ziti Dinner
The Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 418 in McKees Rocks is hosting a Ziti dinner on Sunday, August 5 to raise money for VFW Veterans banners for Veterans killed in action. The dinner is being held at the VFW Post 418, located at 1242 Chartiers Avenue in McKees Rocks from noon – 7 p.m. For information on tickets please contact Chas Martiz at 412-771-7034 or 412-722-8723.
The National Aviary is America’s only independent indoor nonprofit zoo dedicated exclusively to birds. Located in Allegheny Commons Park on Pittsburgh’s historic North Side, the National Aviary’s diverse collection comprises more than 500 birds representing more than 150 species from around the world, many of them threatened or endangered in the wild.
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
|Northside (Mobile Office)
Carnegie Library |
1230 Federal Street
Pittsburgh, PA 15212