|Senator Fontana addressed the Duquesne University School of Pharmacy students at the Allegheny County Pharmacists Association professional meeting on Jan. 31 at Duquesne University. Senator Fontana discussed issues related to the pharmacy profession and answered great questions from students following his remarks.
A Time to Work Together
Last week, Governor Tom Wolf was joined by Acting State Police Commissioner Lt. Col. Robert Evanchick, legislators and stakeholders to urge passage of commonsense gun safety legislation. Weeks earlier, Pittsburgh City Council took the liberty of proposing several gun reform bills since there has been no significant movement on anti-gun violence legislation in Harrisburg. How many victims, families, activists, and politicians does it take to say we need to do something to prevent the next big massacre from happening? What ways can we encourage gun advocates to join us in finding a solution to what is becoming a too common occurrence of mass shootings in America?
The statistics for gun violence in Pennsylvania are staggering. The annual cost on our society is $8.5 billion. Guns are attributed to the second-leading cause of death for Pennsylvania children. Someone is killed with a gun every 6 hours which equates to 1,467 people a year. This number doesn’t even factor in how many residents are wounded by guns each year.
If those figures weren’t daunting enough, they are even more astonishing for the United States. Twenty-nine reported mass shootings have occurred in America since the beginning of 2019, with 47 people dying as a result. Unfortunately, Pennsylvania was once again a part of this statistic since a mass shooting took place in State College on January 24. Could it have been prevented? Maybe not? But I would sleep better at night knowing we have more checks and balances in place that would discourage these types of acts.
Pennsylvania was given a C rating by the Giffords Law Center in their Annual Gun Law State Scorecard. Some of the reasons for this rating are that the commonwealth does not require a background check when an unlicensed person sells a rifle or shotgun nor are gun owners required to report when their firearms are lost or stolen. The scorecard also points out that our state does prohibit the transfer or possession of assault weapons or large capacity ammunition magazines or that firearm owners do not need to obtain a license. On the other hand, California, which received an A on their scorecard, has the toughest gun control laws in the nation. The state’s goal has been to enact policies that reduce the overall number of gun deaths which has proven successful since California’s gun-death rate has been cut in half over the last 25 years even though they have the highest population in the country.
Many of the bills from previous sessions have and will be introduced again this year. As I have already stated in my October 30, 2018 News & Views, I will be sponsoring my assault weapons ban and extreme risk protection order in addition to signing onto several other proposals that would grant us true gun reform. However, as many of you know, the likelihood of these bills going anywhere is very slim since there is an unwillingness to compromise from powerful organizations like the National Rifle Association.
I don’t want to live in a society where mass shootings are the new norm. I don’t want to live in place where we turn on the news and mass murders are something we come to expect. However, this will continue to be a contentious issue from all viewpoints until we can work together to reach an agreement that all sides can live with. So, for these people who are against my or others gun reform bills, I encourage you to be a part of the solution. Quit being opposed to everything. Come up with ideas in which all sides can find common ground. At the end of the day, I truly believe that pro-gun advocates really do want to keep firearms from those that are the most dangerous to themselves and others.
I am pleased to announce three projects in the 42nd Senatorial District are receiving state multimodal grants totaling $3.95 million. These state dollars help local communities complete key projects aimed at enhancing efficiency, safety and improving access throughout our region.
The three projects are:
McKees Rocks Community Development Corporation -- $1.9 million for multimodal transportation and green infrastructure improvements and streetscapes including handicapped-accessible sidewalks and crosswalks, curbing, bus lanes, pedestrian circulation, bike racks, infiltration cells, traffic signals and new street lights from the intersection of Chartiers Avenue, Linden Avenue, and Furnace Street Ext., extending northwest along the first block of Chartiers Avenue.
Pittsburgh Arena Real Estate Development LP -- $1.4 million for transportation improvements to support the planned redevelopment of the former Civic Arena site in Pittsburgh’s lower Hill District, including a new roadway access point connecting New Street to Center Avenue as well as pedestrian, bike and public transit improvements on Crawford and Center Avenues.
Sports & Exhibition Authority (SEA) -- $650,000 for a new three-acre public open space that will provide improvements to intersections, the streetscape, provide new pedestrian pathways, bicycle routes, a bus stop, bikeshare station, and upgrade stormwater management, energy-efficient lighting, and other public amenities. The development work will take place on the so-called “cap” over I-579 that connects the 28-acre former Civic Arena site to downtown.
The multimodal funds (Act 89 of 2013), administered by PennDOT, support ports and rail freight, increase aviation investments, establish dedicated funding for bicycle and pedestrian improvements and allow targeted funding for priority investments in any mode. The grants are aimed at improving efficiency, safety and transportation mobility.
Moving forward, I will continue to partner with local officials to advance efforts that make our area a better place to live and work.
Commission on Crime and Delinquency Grant Funding
The Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency (PCCD) has several grant opportunities currently available. One immediate opportunity is the 2019 Community Violence Prevention/Reduction grant. This grant closes this Thursday. Funding ($7.5 million total) is available to municipalities (including counties), community-based organizations and institutes of higher education to increase access to quality trauma-informed support services and behavioral health systems, providing health services and intervention strategies by coordinating services provided, providing mentoring and other intervention models to children and families who have experienced trauma, fostering and promoting communication between school entities and community, or any program or model designed to reduce community violence.
Grant applications can be found by clicking here or visiting https://www.pccdegrants.pa.gov/Egrants/Public/OpenAnnouncements.aspx.
The above link also provides information on the other grant opportunities including programs that assist victims of sexual assault and opioid abuse. Deadlines for these grant applications vary throughout March 2019.
Improving Air Quality Policy Hearing
This Thursday, Feb. 7, I will be participating in a Joint Democratic Policy Committee hearing on improving air quality. The public hearing will take place at the Clairton Municipal Building, located at 551 Ravensburg Boulevard in Clairton. The hearing is taking place in response to a fire that took place at U.S. Steel’s Clairton Coke Works plant on Christmas Eve and the subsequent response from the Allegheny County Health Department.
The hearing is open to the public and will also be livestreamed at www.PASenate.com.
Property Tax/Rent Rebate Program
The Pennsylvania Department of Revenue is now accepting applications for the 2018 Property Tax/Rent Rebate Program. If you filed a paper rebate last year, you should receive an application in the mail. Applications are also available at my district offices, online at www.revenue.pa.gov or by calling 1-888-222-9190. As always, my staff would be happy to assist you in preparing your application.
The Property Tax/Rent Rebate Program benefits eligible Pennsylvanians age 65 and older; widows and widowers age 50 and older; and people with disabilities age 18 and older. The income limit is $35,000 a year for homeowners and $15,000 annually for renters. Please keep in mind, half of Social Security income is excluded.
Applications are due to the Department of Revenue by June 30 and rebates will be distributed beginning July 1. The program is funded by the Pennsylvania Lottery and revenue from slots gaming.
Did You Know…
Did you know more than $252.6 million in property tax and rent rebates have been sent to more than 527,000 homeowners and renters across the state for property taxes and rent paid in 2017?
Driving PA Forward Grant
The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) is accepting grant applications to replace, repower, or retrofit fleet diesel-powered trucks, buses, and other vehicles and equipment through the Driving PA Forward program. More than $2.6 million will be available due to the 2018 settlement with Volkswagen, relating to emissions cheating.
Mobile source emissions in Pennsylvania from sources like diesel engines account for nearly half of nitrogen oxide pollution, which can lead to ground-level ozone formation and poor air quality. Children and elderly residents are especially susceptible to health impacts such as asthma from poor air quality.
Grants are available for both public and private entities, including school districts, local governments, and non-profit organizations. The application package, including guidance and application instructions, is available electronically on DEP's Driving PA Forward webpage at www.dep.pa.gov/drivingpaforward or by contacting the Bureau of Air Quality by e-mail at email@example.com or by phone at (717) 787-9495.
DEP will accept online applications until 4 p.m. on Feb. 28.
Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy Listening Tour
The Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy has put together a Parks Listening Tour. This Tour began in late 2018 and continues throughout the early part of 2019. The Parks Conservancy is interested in getting residents’ thoughts on the status of the city’s parks, what improvements they’d like to see and what they love about the parks.
Anyone interested in attending one of the Listening Tour stops can click here to view a schedule of dates. Residents can also view a presentation on the parks and take a survey at the same link.
Wherever you live in the city of Pittsburgh, the Parks Conservancy wants to hear your thoughts about your parks!
Domestic Violence Awareness Event
The 4th annual Domestic Violence/Center for Victims Fundraiser In Memory of Melissa Bowers is scheduled for this Saturday at Ceffalo’s Banquet & Event Center, located at 428 Washington Avenue in Carnegie.
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.
It was on this date in 2006 that the Steelers won their fifth Super Bowl championship, defeating the Seattle Seahawks, 21-10 in Super Bowl XL, at Ford Field in Detroit.
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