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Senator Wayne D. Fontana

Minimum Wage Increase

Recently the Senate passed Senate Bill 79 (SB 79), which included in an increase to the state’s minimum wage, something that hasn’t happened in Pennsylvania since 2006. I was a co-sponsor on SB79 and was proud to support the bill, helping to move Pennsylvania more in line with neighboring states like New York, Ohio and New Jersey, all of whom already have a minimum wage higher than the federal minimum of $7.25 an hour.

Minimum Wage IncreaseSB79 will increase the state’s minimum wage incrementally until it reaches $9.50 an hour in 2022. The wage will increase on the following schedule:

  • $8.00/hour beginning July 1, 2020;
  • $8.50/hour beginning January 1, 2021;
  • $9.00/hour beginning July 1, 2021; and
  • $9.50/hour beginning January 1, 2022.

In addition to raising the minimum wage, SB79 also bars an employer from deducting credit card fees or costs from their employees’ tips and prohibits the Department of Labor & Industry from promulgating regulations that set a salary threshold for overtime exemptions until January 2023.

While I’m pleased the Senate was able to reach an agreement to raise the minimum wage, my fellow Democrats and I had to make several compromises in order to get it done. SB79 does not raise the minimum wage to $12-$15 an hour, something I’ve long advocated for, nor does it eliminate the tipped wage. The bill also does not include an annual cost of living adjustment. While disappointing, I believe the compromises are worth it. This bill will directly impact 399,300 Pennsylvanians and indirectly affect another 359,700 more. For these people, a wage increase of any kind simply cannot wait.

Just because the Senate passed SB79 does not mean I’m done fighting for our workers. Going forward, I will continue to advocate for raising the minimum wage to $12-$15 an hour. I will also continue to push for a cost of living increase based on the Consumer Price Index so in the future, people will receive annual raises without having to wait for the legislature to approve them. The research is clear: raising the minimum wage improves employee morale and productivity, increases consumer spending, and does not lead to a spike in unemployment. As I see it, there’s no reason we cannot pay our workers a living wage.

SB79 now heads to the House for consideration. I call upon House leadership to immediately take up this important piece of legislation upon their return in mid-December. 

Did You Know…

Did you know that 29 states have a minimum wage higher than the federal minimum of $7.25 an hour?

Medicare Open Enrollment

healthcareThe open enrollment period for Medicare closes this Saturday, Dec. 7.  Through Saturday, beneficiaries will have the opportunity to make changes to their current Medicare coverage, as well as join, switch, or drop Medicare Advantage or Prescription Drug Coverage plans.

The PA Department of Aging, wants to remind Medicare enrollees about the free health insurance counseling Pennsylvania offers. APPRISE is designed to help Pennsylvanians understand and enroll in Medicare. Counselors are specially trained staff and volunteers who can provide objective, easy-to-understand information free of charge. APPRISE counselors can help individuals understand Medicare eligibility, enrollment, financial assistance programs, coverage options, among other Medicare-related topics.

APPRISE Counselors are available locally through the Allegheny County Area Agency on Aging at 412-661-1438 or APPRISE@fswp.org. Additionally, individuals can call the toll-free APPRISE Helpline at 1-800-783-7067, which is available Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. – 4 p.m.

REAL ID Reminder

I want to remind anyone interested in getting a REAL ID how to go about it.  In March, PennDOT began issuing REAL IDs to customers for the first time.

If you received your first Pennsylvania driver's license, learner's permit or photo ID card AFTER September 2003, PennDOT may already have your required REAL ID documentation on file.

If you fall into this category and would like PennDOT to verify that your required REAL ID documentation is on file, please click here to begin the REAL ID Online Pre-Verification application process. Once PennDOT has reviewed your record, you will receive an email stating whether your documentation is on file with the department. If you did not provide an email address, once PennDOT has reviewed your record, you will receive a postcard stating whether your documentation is on file with the department. If your documentation is on file with PennDOT, you will be able to order your REAL ID online without visiting a driver's license center at www.dmv.pa.gov and your REAL ID will be sent through the mail.

Individuals who wish to obtain a REAL ID and received their first product BEFORE September 2003 must visit a PennDOT Driver License Center with the required documentation to pre-verify in person. Required documentation includes the following:

  • Proof of Identity (original or certified copy of a birth certificate with a raised seal, issued by an authorized government agency, or a valid U.S. Passport)
  • Social Security card
  • Proof of all legal name changes (marriage certificate, court order or divorce decree)
  • Two proofs of current, physical PA address (examples include a current PA license or ID and no more than a 90-day old bank statement or utility bill with the same name and address)

For additional information about REAL ID in Pennsylvania please visit www.penndot.gov/REALID or  http://www.pasenate.com/RealID/.

Getting a REAL ID is optional for Pennsylvania residents but as a reminder, beginning October 1, 2020, Pennsylvanians will need a REAL ID-compliant driver's license, photo ID card, or another form of federally-acceptable identification (such as a valid passport or military ID) to board a domestic commercial flight or enter a federal building or military installation that requires ID.

2020 PA Fishing Licenses, Permits & Gift Vouchers Now on Sale

dogsThe PA Fish & Boat Commission (PFBC) announced recently that 2020 fishing licenses are now on sale.

All fishing licenses and related permits purchased now are valid for up to 13 months, from December 2019 through December 31, 2020. Licenses and permits can be purchased at www.gonefishingpa.com, at more than 700 issuing agents, county treasurers’ offices and at all PFBC regional offices.

In addition to licenses and permits, such as the trout/salmon or Lake Erie permits, customers may choose to purchase vouchers that can be given as gifts and be redeemed by recipients.

The price of an annual resident fishing license this year is still $22.90. Multi-year options are also available in 3, 5 and 10-year increments. The most popular add-ons, a trout-salmon permit and a Lake Erie permit cost $9.90 each, or $15.90 for a combination permit. Once again for the 2020 license year, customers can purchase a collectible fishing license button for $10. This year’s button features a pumpkinseed sunfish design and is customized with the angler’s individual license number (buttons are not issued at the time of purchase and will be mailed to the buyer within 3-4 weeks).

In 2020, anglers who visit a license issuing agent in-person can receive the Fishing Summary book free of charge. The book, which outlines current fishing regulations and laws, seasons and creel limits, and safety information also includes advertising and coupons. An identical, digital version of the Fishing Summary book can be viewed and printed for free at www.FishInPA.com, or viewed on the free FishBoatPA mobile app for smart phones.

Customers purchasing a 2020 license can once again support their favorite PFBC programs through the purchase of voluntary permits for Bass, Musky, Wild Trout and Enhanced Waters, and Habitat/Waterways Conservation. These permits are not required for fishing and carry no additional privileges, but all funds generated through them are reinvested into their respective program.

While youth anglers under age 16 do not require a fishing license, they must have either a Voluntary Youth Fishing License ($2.90) or a free Mentored Youth Fishing Permit to participate in various youth opportunities throughout the season. This includes the Mentored Youth Trout Fishing Days, which occur the week before the opening of the regional and statewide openers in each area.

The Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission is a user-funded agency that operates primarily on funds generated through the sale of fishing licenses, boating registrations and associated fees. The PFBC receives no Pennsylvania General Fund tax revenue to support its programs.

Dog Law Enforcement Office Warns Pennsylvania Dog Owners of Fraudulent Dog License Website

dogsThe Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture's Bureau of Dog Law Enforcement are warning Pennsylvania dog owners looking to purchase new or renewal licenses of a fraudulent website selling dog licenses online.

Agriculture Secretary Russell Redding reminds all Pennsylvanians that the Department of Agriculture works with Pennsylvania’s county treasurers for the sale of dog licenses. The best way to ensure that you’re completing an official transaction is to start on www.licenseyourdogpa.pa.gov.   

Most recently, the department has identified www.padoglicense.online as selling fake PA dog licenses and even paying search engines to appear at the top of search results pages for common terms, like “Pennsylvania dog license” or “renew PA dog license”.

Here are some tips to help customers ensure that they are on an official website:

  • Rather than using a search engine to reach a website to purchase a dog license, type www.licenseyourdogpa.pa.gov directly into your browser’s address bar;

  • When in doubt, call your county treasurer office. Each county treasurer has a different process; while most offer an online option for purchase of licenses (as Allegheny County does), some do not and require a paper form to be dropped off or mailed.

If you have a concern about a third-party website, contact the PA Attorney General Bureau of Consumer Protection at 1-800-441-2555.

For more information of Pennsylvania’s dog laws, visit www.agriculture.pa.gov or www.licenseyourdogpa.pa.gov.

PoinsettiasFontana Fact

Poinsettias are a popular plant during the month of December.  They were first introduced into the United States in 1828 by the U.S. ambassador to Mexico, Joel Poinsett.  Poinsettias are now grown in all 50 states and represent over 85 percent of potted plant sales during the holidays.

Offices of State Senator Wayne D. Fontana

Brookline District
1039 Brookline Boulevard
Suite 2
Pittsburgh, PA 15226
Phone: 412-344-2551
Weekdays – 9 am – 5 pm
Harrisburg
543 Main Capitol | Box 203042
Harrisburg, PA 17120
Phone: 717-787-5300
Fax: 717-772-5484
Weekdays – 8:30 am – 5 pm
Kennedy Township
Kenmawr Plaza
524 Pine Hollow Road
Kennedy Twp, PA 15136
Phone: 412-331-1208
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