|Senator Fontana spoke at an Oct. 24 press conference in Squirrel Hill, hosted by Squirrel Hill Stands Against Gun Violence, Bend the Arc: Pittsburgh, and CeaseFirePA that focused on the need for action at the state and federal level to reduce gun violence in the wake of last year’s Oct. 27 shooting at Tree of Life.
One Year of Inaction
Last week, I joined members of Squirrel Hill Stands Against Gun Violence, Bend the Arc: Pittsburgh, and CeaseFire PA and Reverend Glenn Grayson at a press conference to call out the continued inaction by lawmakers to pass state and federal legislation to reduce gun violence in the wake of last year’s October 27 shooting at the Tree of Life Building. I commend these organizations for their relentless effort to reform our state and national firearm laws to curtail gun violence.
The one-year anniversary has come and gone for the deadliest anti-Semitic attack in U.S. history and it is imperative that we continue to fight this fight. It is unfathomable to me that Rabbi Jonathan Perlman of New Light Congregation had to set aside time during this weekend’s memorial service to pray that our state and federal government finally take action on gun control, which was met with an extended ovation, instead of the focusing on the 11 lives lost in a senseless murder.
Even before our community was targeted and turned into another statistic, I introduced two bills that would help stem this epidemic of gun violence believing that we must work together to find a way to get guns away from those who are clearly a danger to themselves or others. One of my bills, Senate Bill 293 (SB 293), would empower families and police officers to petition a court to temporarily remove firearms from someone who is a threat to themselves or others through a system allowing for Extreme Risk Protection Orders.
In nearly half of all mass shootings, including the one here in Squirrel Hill, the killer overtly expressed threats or views aimed at harming people. It is time that the law reflects this current moment in time and that we stand with families who are trying to protect innocent people. It is also time that our laws empower families who try to get their loved ones the help they need.
If my proposal were in place, it very well could have prevented both the Parkland and Squirrel Hill shootings and perhaps even the mass shooting in Virginia Beach. This is because under SB 293, a family could petition a county common pleas court to suspend someone’s access to firearms for up to a year. It’s modeled after domestic and sexual assault PFAs and would require the person to immediately surrender their guns to the police. This person would also be temporarily banned from buying, selling or possessing firearms during the suspension.
In issuing an Extreme Risk Protection Order, the judge could also refer the person in crisis for evaluation to ensure that they get the help they need. During the suspension period, the subject would have every right to petition a judge to rescind the suspension.
I have served in the legislature for nearly 15 years and have had countless discussions with firearm owners and I can tell you that most sportsmen and gun enthusiasts also don’t want to see firearms in the wrong hands. All they have asked is that such a system be fair and limited. I believe my Red Flag bill would get guns away from dangerous people without violating Second Amendment rights.
I have also introduced legislation, Senate Bill 292 (SB 292), that would ban certain military-style assault weapons. Designed to do little more than spray bullets and kill a lot of people quickly, these deadly weapons of war have no legitimate purpose or place among civilians.
As we look back at the year since this mass shooting has taken place in our city, all the state Legislature has accomplished is legislation that arms school personnel instead of taking weapons from those who endanger our lives the most. Once again, our community has come again to stand together with the rallying cry that inaction is no longer an option. I’m not saying my bills would solve all problems or prevent all mass shootings, but we need to come up with solutions that deal with this issue responsibly, effectively, fairly – and quickly. As we honor the victims of the Squirrel Hill shooting, let’s continue to advance reforms. Let’s fight the deep-pocketed special interests who continue to stall our proposals. The best way to honor those who died is to do our part to prevent such a senseless tragedy from ever happening again.
All Senate offices will be closed on Tuesday, Nov. 5 for Election Day. My offices will re-open as scheduled on Wednesday, Nov. 6.
Election Day Information
Deadline to Request Absentee Ballots – TODAY!
Today is the last day to apply for an absentee ballot for the Nov. 5 General Election. Any voter who needs an absentee ballot 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 601 in downtown Pittsburgh. 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, Nov 1.
Absentee ballot applications are available at the Allegheny County Elections Division, in any of my district offices or online at www.votespa.com.
Polling Place Locator
If you are a newly-registered voter, have recently moved or have not voted in a while, and are unsure where your polling place is located, you can visit the Polling Place Locator Page offered by the PA Department of State. You will be asked to enter your county, 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 Allegheny County Elections Division office at 412-350-4500.
New Polling Locations
27 polling places in Allegheny County have changed since the May Primary Election, including six within the 42nd Senatorial District. Voters in districts that are affected have been notified by mail. The following locations in the 42nd Senatorial District have changed:
||Dormont Pool, Thomas R. Lloyd Rec. Center
1891 Dormont Avenue
||Dormont Pool, Thomas R. Lloyd Rec. Center
1891 Dormont Avenue
||Ammon Recreation Center
2217 Bedford Avenue
||Sheraden Senior Center
720 Sherwood Street
||Knoxville Senior Center
320 Brownsville Road
||Holy Trinity P.N. Catholic Church
200 Grace Street
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.
|Senator Fontana and Representative Dan Deasy joined Dave Montz – Green Tree Borough Manager, Mark Sampogna – Green Tree Council President, and John Novak – Green Tree Councilperson last week to view sidewalk upgrades made along Greentree Road as a result of state multimodal funding the borough received.
Statewide Video Competition Challenges Students to Share Ideas on Farming
Pennsylvania has a rich heritage of farming that dates back centuries, and agriculture remains the state’s top industry today. However, that heritage is threatened by difficult market conditions and an aging population of farmers. For every four farmers in Pennsylvania over the age of 65, there is only one farmer under the age of 35.
The third annual “Talk To Your State Senator” statewide video competition challenges middle and high school students to share their ideas about how Pennsylvania can reverse these trends and ensure the agriculture industry will have a bright future in our Commonwealth.
The contest, which is sponsored by the Senate of Pennsylvania and Rutter’s, is open to Pennsylvania students in grades 6 through 12, including all public school, private school and home school students. Participants are encouraged to submit video entries of no longer than three minutes that promote the future of farming in Pennsylvania.
A total of $10,000 in prizes will be awarded through the PA 529 college savings program administered by the Pennsylvania Department of Treasury. Contest entries must be submitted by January 31, 2020.
More information on the contest is available online at www.legis.state.pa.us/talk-to-your-state-senator/.
Did You Know…
Did you know in 2018 Pennsylvania had 53,000 farms being operated on more than 7.3 million acres?
LIHEAP Opening Friday
Starting Friday, Nov. 1, the Pennsylvania Department of Human Services (DHS) 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 (www.compass.state.pa.us). You can also pick up an application in my district offices or download one yourself from the DHS LIHEAP website. Completed paper applications should be returned to the Allegheny County Assistance Office, located at 5947 Penn Avenue, 4th Floor, Pittsburgh, PA, 15206.
Funding for LIHEAP is provided by the federal government and eligibility is based on the Federal Poverty Income Guidelines. The income limits for this season are as follows:
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 provider and will be credited to your heating account. Crisis grants may also be available if you have an emergency situation and are in jeopardy of losing your heat. For more information, please contact the LIHEAP hotline at 1-866-857-7095.
PWSA Cash Assistance Grant
The Pittsburgh Water & Sewer Authority (PWSA) is offering financial relief for income-qualified residential customers having difficulty paying their water and sewer bills through their Cash Assistance Grant Program. The program provides up to $300 per year to assist eligible customers who are at or below 150 percent of the Federal Poverty Level with paying their PWSA bills. Dollar Energy Fund administers the program and is currently accepting applications for its 2019-2020 program year. Customers can call Dollar Energy at 1-866-762-2348 to apply.
PWSA’s additional assistance programs include the Winter Shut Off Moratorium (available annually from Dec. 1 – March 31), Bill Discount Program (offering a 75 percent discount on our fixed water and wastewater conveyance charges, approximately $26.66 per month), and the Free Lead Line Replacement Project.
Since the inception of these programs in 2018, 2,715 customers enrolled in the Winter Moratorium, 3,283 enrolled in the Bill Discount Program, 341 were approved and granted a total of $71,595 for the Cash Assistance Program, and 339 were approved and granted a total of $1,188,326 for the Free Lead Line Replacement Program.
More information on any of these programs can be found online at www.pgh2o.com/CAP.
Suicide Prevention Task Force Listening Tour
The Department of Human Services’ Suicide Prevention Task Force is seeking public input on ideas for suicide prevention, education around mental health and suicide, and how to dispel the stigma around suicide and mental health.
The Task Force has embarked on a statewide Listening Tour with stops in southwestern Pennsylvania approaching. On Thursday, Nov. 7, the Listening Tour will stop at the Jewish Healthcare Foundation from 5:30-7:30 p.m. The Jewish Healthcare Foundation is located at 650 Smithfield Street, Suite 2400, in downtown Pittsburgh. On Friday, Nov. 8, the Listening Tour will move to Slippery Rock University from 10 a.m. – noon.
Representatives from Pennsylvania's National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) chapter, the Mental Health Association in Pennsylvania (MHAPA), and the Pennsylvania Mental Health Consumers' Association (PMHCA) will be on-site during the listening sessions to facilitate meaningful discussion and gather feedback that will be consolidated in a report to the Task Force to help inform its statewide plan. Difficult topics and experiences may be discussed, so professionals will also be on-site to assist if people need support during the sessions.
Many Pennsylvanians have expressed interest in sharing their personal stories to raise awareness and help suicide prevention efforts in any way possible. The public’s voice will help Task Force members shape a statewide suicide prevention plan that will include recommendations, not only for state government, but for stakeholders and communities to carry forward and implement.
Anyone interested in attending a session can register online by clicking here or visiting http://www.dhs.pa.gov/citizens/SuicidePrevention/.
Gaming Revenue Increases
The Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board announced recently that total revenue from gaming, including table games, slot machines, fantasy contests and sports betting in Pennsylvania during the month of September increased 5.4 percent compared with September 2018. Total gaming revenue in September came in at more than $285.4 million compared with $270.6 million in September 2018. Total tax revenue generated from all forms of gaming and fantasy contests was more than $116.5 million in September.
While revenue from slot machine play and table games was down slightly in September, revenue from sports betting and fantasy contests increased.
For a complete breakdown of revenues generated from all forms of gaming in Pennsylvania, please visit www.gamingcontrolboard.pa.gov. The state’s gaming industry employs over 16,000 people and generates approximately $1.4 billion annually in tax revenue from both slot machines and table games.
Allegheny County Community Health Assessment
The Allegheny County Health Department (ACHD) and its advisory coalition are developing the next Community Health Assessment (CHA). As part of this process, they have created a survey for residents to help identify the priority health issues impacting their communities. This survey has a particular focus on health equity and will be used to design a new Community Health Improvement Plan, which will outline goals and strategies to improve the health and wellbeing of all Allegheny County residents.
The survey became available in June and the deadline for submissions has been extended through Nov. 8. This survey is open to all residents of Allegheny County over 18 years of age. By taking the survey, you are helping ACHD identify the key needs of Allegheny County communities.
If you’re interested in taking the online survey, please click here or visit https://achd.checkboxonline.com/CHA2019.
Pittsburgh Carmalt Fall Fantasy Craft & Vendor Show
Pittsburgh Carmalt is hosting a Fall Fantasy Craft & Vendor Show on Saturday, Nov. 23 from 9 a.m. – 3 p.m. at the school, located at 1550 Breining Street in Brookline. The event allows attendees to get a jump on their holiday shopping and browse offerings from local crafters and vendors. There will also be a 50/50 raffle and basket auction. Proceeds benefit the Pittsburgh Carmalt Academy of Science & Technology PTSA.
Additionally, Carmalt students are holding a non-perishable food drive to help the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank. Anyone who brings a non-perishable food item can enter a drawing to win a $25 GetGo gift card.
According to a recent Monmouth University poll, Americans have named Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups as their favorite Halloween candy, getting more than 36 percent of the vote. Snickers came in second with 18 percent and M&M’s ranked third with 11 percent.
Offices of State Senator Wayne D. Fontana
| Brookline District
1039 Brookline Boulevard
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
10 a.m. – 3 p.m. – First Tuesday of each month or by appointment