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Senator Wayne D. Fontana

Early Voting Proposal

Early VotingAs I have done for the past two legislative sessions, I am reintroducing my proposal that would allow for early voting in Pennsylvania. Our commonwealth has no early voting and the only circumstances that allows one to vote via absentee ballot are those who will be absent from their municipality due to their occupation or when an individual is unable to vote in person because of illness, physical disability, or religious holiday.

More than two-thirds of the United States has some form of early voting with the voting period ranging from as much as 45 days before an election to as little as four days according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. The state of New York became the most recent state to adopt early voting, passing legislation earlier this month. That now leaves Pennsylvania as only one of 12 states without some form of early voting.

Early voting provides citizens with more options to make it more convenient to participate in the process. Standing in long lines is often eliminated and if one or several voting machines malfunction, people will still have the ability to come back to cast their vote at another time. It can also be argued that Pennsylvania’s single-day voting disenfranchises certain occupations, especially those with shifts that are longer than eight hours, including EMT personnel and paramedics, nurses, doctors, and firefighters or even college students with a packed schedule. Additionally, early voting could alleviate some issues that may arise if someone shows up to the wrong polling place.

My bill would allow voting to take place 15 days prior to Election Day. The polling places would be geographically located and open on both weekdays and weekends so that electors are provided an equal opportunity to participate in the process.

Early voting is increasingly becoming the choice of an overwhelming number of voters throughout the country. In the 2018 General Election, nearly 40 million votes took place during early voting periods. These impressive numbers make it clear that citizens of the United States are becoming more engaged in the political process and I feel that it is imperative that Pennsylvania enacts laws with the goal of breaking down as many roadblocks and increasing voter turnout.

A report released by The Brennan Center for Justice found that early voting offers several benefits including less stress on the election system, improved poll worker performance, shorter lines for voters, early identification and correction of registration errors and, greater access to voting and a better experience for voters. 

Over the years, I have heard from a number of constituents that have expressed they could not vote or have found it difficult to vote because the day and times were inconvenient to their busy schedules.  Others have expressed they do not have the time to spend waiting in long lines at the polling sites. Early voting offers flexibility to best meet the needs of our residents.

My proposal reflects a commitment to making it easier for Pennsylvanians to exercise their constitutional right to vote and is the right thing to do to encourage voter participation and provide necessary access.

DCNR Grant Opportunities

Recreation Plan Recreation Plan The PA Department of Conservation & Natural Resources (DCNR) is accepting applications through April 10 for recreation and conservation grants.  DCNR’s Bureau of Recreation and Conservation provides technical and grant assistance in support of community projects that help plan, acquire and develop parks, recreation facilities, trails, and conserve critical conservation areas and watersheds.

The current Pennsylvania Statewide Comprehensive Outdoor Recreation Plan, which can be viewed by visiting http://www.paoutdoorrecplan.com/, identifies Pennsylvania’s outdoor recreation priorities, strategies and actions.  Complementing the Recreation Plan Priorities, the Bureau will also focus grant funds on a few Bureau priorities including:

Community Parks & Recreation – Priority projects in this category include planning and development projects that focus on rehabilitation of existing parks.

Land Conservation/Watershed Protection – Priority projects in this category include land conservation projects that protect critical habitat, forested watersheds, wetlands, and riparian corridors or create critical connections between public or conservation lands.

Watershed Restoration/Rivers Implementation – Priority projects in this category include projects that enhance public access to Pennsylvania’s waterways or projects that improve Pennsylvania’s watersheds and waterways including the planting of riparian forest buffers.

Trails – Priority projects in this category include projects that close priority trail gaps as well as projects that rehabilitate or upgrade existing trails.

Detailed program information, recorded webinars, and access to the online grant application can be found by clicking here or visiting www.dcnr.pa.gov.  Interested applicants needing assistance with their grant application can contact the Bureau’s Southwest Region office at 412-880-0486. Potential applicants are encouraged to participate in either or both of two upcoming grant webinars, tomorrow, and Feb. 27. To register for the webinars please visit www.dcnr.pa.gov and click on “Events” and use the search box to search the keyword “grants.”

Keystone Historic Preservation Grant Program

Pennsylvania Historical & Museum Commission (PHMC)The Pennsylvania Historical & Museum Commission (PHMC) is now accepting applications from nonprofit organizations and local governments for the Keystone Historic Preservation Grant Program. Grants support projects that identify, preserve, promote and protect historic and archaeological resources in Pennsylvania for both the benefit of the public and community revitalization. The grants receive funding from the Keystone Recreation, Park, and Conservation Fund. A total of $2.5 million has been set aside for this program, an increase of $1 million over the previous year due to continued popularity of the program.

Two categories of grants – project and construction – are available for historic resources in Pennsylvania listed, or eligible for listing, in the National Register of Historic Places. Applicants may apply for only one type of grant.

Project grants are available for planning and development initiatives that enhance historic preservation in communities. Project grant applications may include municipal planning initiatives focusing on historic resources or may be used to meet building - or project - specific planning goals. Keystone Historic Preservation Project Grants are available between $5,000 and $25,000 and require a 50/50 cash match.

Construction grants are available for rehabilitation, preservation and restoration activities for historic resources that are publicly accessible and under nonprofit or local government ownership. Keystone Historic Preservation Construction Grants are available between $5,000 and $100,000 and require a 50/50 cash match.

PHMC will host a webinar about the Keystone Grant program guidelines and application process tomorrow at 2 p.m.  To register, please visit http://eepurl.com/dH8-wv.  

Applications are due March 1.  Grants will be awarded through a competitive selection process and are contingent on the availability of funds. Please note that all PHMC grant applications are now submitted on the Commonwealth’s Single Application for Assistance system at www.esa.dced.state.pa.us. For grant program guidelines and program fact sheet, visit PHMC online at www.phmc.pa.gov and click on “Grants and Funding” under the PRESERVATION tab on the top Navigation Bar.

The Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission is the official history agency of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.

WIC Program

I want to remind everyone that the Pennsylvania Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC) provides nutrition services, breastfeeding support, health care and social service referrals, and healthy foods. Through WIC, pregnant women, mothers, and caregivers of infants and young children learn about good nutrition to keep themselves and their families healthy.

Pregnant women, breastfeeding women for up to one year postpartum, women up to six months postpartum who are not breastfeeding and infants and children under five years old, including foster children are eligible for the WIC program. These residents must also meet WIC income guidelines, which is 185 percent of the poverty level set by the federal government and is based on household size. They must also have a medical or nutritional risk, which is determined at the WIC certification appointment. There are many qualifying risks. Some examples include: anemia, underweight, overweight, premature baby and pregnancy complications.

To learn more about WIC or to apply online, please visit https://pawic.com/.  You may also call the toll-free WIC Hotline, 1-800-WIC-WINS, to be connected to WIC office staff that will answer your questions and schedule your appointment.

Did You Know…

Did you know that WIC was first authorized by the United States Congress in 1972 and was implemented in Pennsylvania in May 1974? 

Food Bank Helping Those Affected by Federal Shutdown

Greater Pittsburgh Community Food BankThe Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank is assisting federal government workers who were not getting paid during the recent federal government shutdown by hosting a food distribution event tomorrow, from 5:30 – 7 p.m. The distribution will take place at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center in Hall D – West Entrance. Free parking will be provided in the Convention Center garage, just bring your parking ticket to the registration table. Bring bags, boxes or a rolling cart as you will receive 30-50 pounds of food. To learn more about the Food Bank visit them at www.pittsburghfoodbank.org or call 412-460-3663. You may also view the Food Bank locations and the locations of their partners within the 42nd Senatorial District by viewing a map that shows locations within the district and a listing of agencies by clicking here.

Emergency Response System for Furloughed Federal Workers

SHUTDOWN RESOURCESThrough PA 2-1-1, the United Way of Pennsylvania, the Pennsylvania AFL-CIO, and the American Federation of Government Employees District 3, have launched a text code initiative which will provide information and updates aimed to help impacted workers cope with the shutdown.  This service will connect federal government employees and contractors who are impacted by the recent partial federal government shutdown to community resources such as assistance with food, utilities, and housing, launching an initiative to support. This initiative will be available throughout the shutdown.

People should text FEDSD to 898-211 to receive updates and information through 2-1-1 via text. The text code will be active throughout the shutdown. When FEDSD is texted to 898-211 it will direct subscribers to specific resources and how to connect with a 2-1-1 center if their need is urgent. 2-1-1 is a 24/7/365 service that connects people to community organizations who can help with their health and human service needs.

Statewide and/or regional resources are also being collected by this coalition and are available on the United Way Government Shutdown Resources web page at  https://www.uwp.org/shutdownresources.

Domestic Violence Awareness Event

The 4th annual Domestic Violence/Center for Victims Fundraiser In Memory of Melissa Bowers is scheduled for Saturday, Feb. 9 at Ceffalo’s Banquet & Event Center, located at 428 Washington Avenue in Carnegie.

The 4th annual Domestic Violence/Center for Victims Fundraiser In Memory of Melissa Bowers This annual event is organized by Colleen Bowers in memory of her daughter Melissa who was murdered in 2012 by an ex-boyfriend. Since that time, she has become an advocate, bringing awareness of domestic violence to the forefront and raising funds for the Center for Victims.

The fundraiser features a series of talented musicians who perform from 6 – 11 p.m. The musicians include: Corn Beef & Curry; The Mansfield 5; Miss Freddye; SoulFemme; The Power of Two; For What It’s Worth Band; The Dave Iglar Band; and the November Blue Band.

Information on purchasing tickets can be found by clicking here.

Fontana Fact

Milk was designated the official state beverage of Pennsylvania in 1982. Pennsylvania ranks fourth in the United States in milk production, butter production, Italian cheese production, and ice cream production. Pennsylvania Dairy cows produce more than 10 billion pounds of milk every year. There are 639,000 milk cows on 10,200 dairy farms.

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