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Senator Wayne D. Fontana
On June 12, Senator Fontana made remarks on the floor of the Senate regarding his Early Voting legislation, Senate Bill 294 (SB 294). You can watch here.
On June 12, Senator Fontana made remarks on the floor of the Senate regarding his Early Voting legislation, Senate Bill 294 (SB 294

Commonwealth Court Judge’s Ruling on Consent Decree Expiration Date

UPMC/HighmarkOn Friday, many Pennsylvanians, including myself, were very disappointed to hear that Commonwealth Court Judge Robert Simpson ruled against Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro’s request to block the insurance network split of UPMC and Highmark on June 30, 2019.  The ruling came after the judge heard arguments from both sides and the Attorney General earlier in the week regarding the end date. 

During the two days of hearings, a UPMC lawyer argued that the consent decrees were never intended to be extended indefinitely and that the state’s Attorney General had not provided evidence that the consent decrees’ modification clause included an extension.  Judge Simpson furthered this argument in his 16-page opinion by stating “that all parties were aware of this transition approach” and the attorney general and Highmark “cannot state a cause of action for [an] extension of the termination/expiration provisions of the consent decrees.”

Attorney General Shapiro has expressed that the fight is not over yet and many expect him to appeal this decision once again to the state’s Supreme Court.  It’s also important to point out that this was only one aspect of the AG’s lawsuit.  Still pending in Commonwealth Court are three counts in the lawsuit:  violation of the Charities Act by UPMC, breach of its fiduciary duties by UPMC’s board and the consumer protection law. 

In less than two weeks, thousands of Highmark-insured patients will become out-of-network and pay significantly more at most UPMC hospitals in Western Pennsylvania.  Many will be subjected to the controversial pre-pay-in-full rule if one seeks out non-emergency care from a UPMC hospital with some exceptions granted for Medicare Advantage members.  Oncology treatments from the Hillman Cancer Center will also be excluded from the pre-pay rule. 

As so many of you know, time is running out.  This ruling once again renews my vow that constituents must call Senate and House Majority Leaders and demand Senate Bills 310 and 311 be brought up for consideration by the General Assembly.  These bills would create a legal structure that makes integrated delivery networks contract with any willing insurer.  And if the parties are unwilling to come to an agreement on their own, the networks would then enter mandatory binding arbitration to determine payment and contractual terms. 

Senator Fontana served as the emcee during a groundbreaking ceremony in the lower Hill District on June14 for the I-579 Cap project.
Senator Fontana served as the emcee during a groundbreaking ceremony in the lower Hill District on June14 for the I-579 Cap project. The project which includes federal, state and local funds, involves placing a “cap” over I-579 and creating public space that reconnects the Hill District with downtown Pittsburgh.

CPR Instruction in High Schools

Last week Governor Wolf signed into law Senate Bill 115 (SB 115), that amends the Public School Code to require high school students to receive instruction on CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation).  I was proud to co-sponsor this legislation and am pleased it has passed both chambers and has been signed into law by the governor.

cprThe Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE) and Pennsylvania Department of Health will join to develop model curriculum and guidelines no later than the beginning of the 2019-20 school year. The model CPR curriculum and guidelines must include the following:

  • Be posted on PDE’s public website
  • Be age-appropriate
  • Be revised regularly to remain consistent with national standards
  • Provide guidance for integrating CPR into health courses or other appropriate curriculum
  • Be available to all school entities
  • Include recommended guidelines and educational materials from organizations with expertise in CPR and emergency care
  • Incorporate psychomotor skills training including hands-only CPR technique
  • Include information on the purpose of an automated external defibrillator

Each year, more than 475,000 Americans die after experiencing cardiac arrest.  More than 350,000 cardiac arrests each year occur outside of the hospital and about 90 percent of those people who experience an out-of-hospital cardiac arrest die.

This new law will help reduce those numbers, giving people more of a chance to survive a cardiac arrest.

Property Tax/Rent Rebate Program – Deadline Extended

Last week it was announced the Pennsylvania Department of Revenue will be accepting applications for the 2018 Property Tax/Rent Rebate Program through Dec. 31. The original deadline to apply was June 30. 

Property TaxIf you filed a paper rebate last year, you should have received 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.

Rebates will be distributed by the PA Department of Revenue beginning July 1. The program is funded by the Pennsylvania Lottery and revenue from slots gaming.

Did You Know…

Did you know that in 2018 the Property Tax/Rent Rebate program delivered more than $253 million to income-eligible seniors and people with disabilities who applied for rebates on rent and property taxes paid in 2017?

DCED Multimodal Fund

I want to remind everyone the Pennsylvania Department of Community & Economic Development (DCED) is accepting applications for the Multimodal Transportation Fund program.  This program provides grants to encourage economic development and ensure that a safe and reliable system of transportation is available to the residents of the commonwealth.

MTF ProgramFunds 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. Those eligible to apply include: municipalities; councils of governments; businesses; economic development organizations; public transportation agencies; and ports. 

Applications must be submitted no later than July 31 and will be considered at the November Commonwealth Financing Authority board meeting.  For more information on the program and to apply, please click here or visit https://dced.pa.gov/.

As Summer Approaches, Take Precautions Against Heat-Related Dangers

It's Summer TimeAs Pennsylvanians prepare for summer weather, vacations and hosting outdoor activities, the Pennsylvania Department of Health wants to encourage residents to stay safe and be prepared for extreme weather conditions, including high temperatures, storms and hurricanes.

The department recommends the following safety tips to help you and your loved ones prepare for summer weather:

Remember to wear:
Lightweight, loose-fitting, light-colored clothing;
A hat or visor;
Sunglasses; and
SPF 15 or higher sunscreen with broad spectrum coverage (reapply as necessary).

To stay hydrated:
Drink plenty of water throughout the day – don’t wait until you are thirsty;
Outdoor workers should drink between two and four cups of water every hour;
Avoid consuming caffeinated, alcoholic, or sugary beverages;
Replace salt lost from sweating by drinking fruit juice or sports drinks.

To safely exercise:
Limit outdoor exercise and stay indoors in air conditioning on hot days;
Exercise early in the morning or later in the evening to avoid the hottest part of the day, (11 a.m. – 3 p.m.);
Pace yourself when you run, walk, or otherwise exert your body.

To protect others:
Never leave children, older adults, or pets behind in a vehicle;
Check on those who may be more at risk of developing health issues from extreme temperatures such as infants and young children, people ages 65 and older, and people with chronic medical conditions.

It is also important to know the difference between heat-related illnesses, such as heat exhaustion and heat stroke. Symptoms of a heat stroke include a high body temperature (above 103°F); red, hot and dry skin, but no sweating; a rapid, strong pulse; throbbing headache; dizziness; nausea; confusion; and unconsciousness. If you think someone is having a heat stroke, it is important to first call 9-1-1. After calling for help, get the person to a shady area and quickly cool them down by putting them in a tub of cool water or spraying them with a garden hose. You should not give the victim any fluids, including water, to drink.

Symptoms of heat exhaustion include heavy sweating, paleness, muscle cramps, tiredness, weakness, dizziness, headache, fainting, and nausea or vomiting.  Help the person cool off and seek medical attention if symptoms are severe, symptoms last more than one hour, or the victim has heart problems or high blood pressure.

The beginning of the summer months is also a great time to make sure you are prepared for any type of severe weather. As Pennsylvania has already dealt with a number of tornadoes, it is important to have an emergency plan for you and your family, and to know what to do if severe weather happens while you are away from home.

Additional information on how to prepare for summer weather can be found on the Department of Health’s website at www.health.pa.gov.   

2019 Ice Cream Trails

2019 Ice Cream TrailsPennsylvania travelers can “pursue their scoops” on the newly expanded Pennsylvania Ice Cream Trail. After a popular inaugural season, the Pennsylvania Ice Cream Trail expanded from 12 creameries in Eastern and South-Central PA, into three trails including a Western PA Trail, with a total of 32 stops in these regions for 2019.

Initiated in 2018, the trail is a partnership of the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture’s PA Preferred program, the Department of Community and Economic Development’s PA Tourism Office, and the Center for Dairy Excellence to highlight the family fun, goodness and “farm-to-cone” adventures in store at dairy destinations across Pennsylvania.

The program includes a passport that visitors can have stamped to earn prizes at stops along each trail. More information about creameries on the trail, including a downloadable passport, can be found at www.visitPA.com/scoops.  Visitors who share photos from the trail using #PursueYourScoops may be featured on VisitPA’s website and social media channels. The trails officially opened statewide on June 1.

Dairy is the largest sector of Pennsylvania’s $135.7 billion agriculture industry, contributing $14.7 billion annually to the economy and supporting 52,000 jobs in the state. More about Pennsylvania farms, and commonwealth initiatives to support dairy and other agriculture businesses can be found at  www.agriculture.pa.gov.

Children EatingSummer Food Program

Children ages 18 and younger can participate in the Summer Food Service Program which began in mid-June.  This is a federal program providing free meals and fun activities to kids 18 and under during the summer months when school is out of session. Children can receive breakfast and lunch during summer recess at many locations in Allegheny County.  To learn more please call 412-460-FOOD or click here to search for locations near you.

Fontana FactSummer Solstice

The Summer Solstice, on June 21, marks the first day of summer. It is also the longest day of the year. Pittsburgh will experience 15 hours and 4 minutes of sunlight, from 5:49 a.m. to 8:53 p.m. meaning it will be light outside for 62.8% of the day.

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