|Senator Fontana participated in a press conference on July 17 announcing the construction of the AHN Montour Health & Sports Medicine Center in Coraopolis. The state-of-the-art health and sports complex will provide endless opportunity to grow the sport of soccer while providing medical facilities on-site. The project is a joint effort by the Pittsburgh Riverhounds and Allegheny Health Network.
New Laws to Protect and Support Victims of Crimes
A package of bills to ensure that Pennsylvania’s criminal justice system supports victims was signed in late June. These new laws will make it easier for prosecutors to pursue justice by eliminating some of the deterrents that are keeping victims from speaking out. Additionally, many feel that the acts make necessary and vital changes to how victims are protected.
Act 21 (House Bill 315) – This act makes it a first-degree felony to cut or allow someone to circumcise or excise the genitals (genital mutilation) of a female minor.
Female genital mutilation involves the partial or total removal of the external female genitalia for non-medical reasons. This is recognized internationally as a violation of human rights of girls and women, and reflects deep-rooted inequality between the sexes, and constitutes an extreme form of discrimination against women. Pennsylvania ranks 11th in the nation, with more than 19,000 women at risk for this procedure, 6,000 of them under the age of 18.
Act 23 (House Bill 502) – The act strengthens the right of crime victims to attend court proceedings.
Victims are not always allowed to attend the entirety of criminal trials. This act helps to address this by amending the Pennsylvania Crime Victims Act of 1984 to bring it in line with federal law to ensure that a victim’s rights are protected.
Act 24 (House Bill 504) – This act prevents the introduction of a victim’s past sexual victimization or allegations to be used in a criminal proceeding.
Often, a history of abuse has been used at trial to discredit an alleged victim. An example would be the defense seeking to use evidence of a past sexual assault to the victim to claim the individual puts him/herself at risk intentionally or to allege outsized sensitivity to innocuous actions because of a history of abuse.
Act 29 (Senate Bill 399) – The act creates a comprehensive bill of rights in Pennsylvania for survivors of sexual assault with the intention to reflect the federal Survivor’s Bill of Rights that was signed into law in 2016.
The following rights have been added to the statute’s current list of rights:
Medical forensic examination free of charge;
- A sexual assault evidence collection kit preserved without charge for the duration of the maximum applicable statute of limitations and to be informed in writing of policies governing the collection/preservation of such kits;
- Upon written request, to receive written notification no later than 60 days before the destruction of the sexual assault evidence collection kit;
- To consult with a sexual assault counselor;
- To receive information concerning availability of protective orders and policies related to the enforcement of protective orders;
- To receive information concerning the availability of, and eligibility for, victim compensation and restitution; and
- To receive information of the rights of sexual assault victims.
Act 30 (Senate Bill 469) – This act applies the state’s existing “tender years exception” to include individuals with intellectual disabilities or autism.
Prior to the changes made by this bill, the exception allowed for the admission of an out-of-court statement, sometimes referred to as a hearsay, made by a child under the age of 12 due to the fragile nature of young victims of abuse.
Act 31 (Senate Bill 479) – The act further expands the “tender years exception” to apply to a wider variety of crimes, including:
- Chapter 25 (relating to criminal homicide)
- Chapter 27 (relating to assault)
- Chapter 29 (relating to kidnapping)
- Chapter 30 (relating to human trafficking)
- Chapter 31 (relating to sexual offenses)
- Chapter 35 (relating to burglary and other criminal intrusion)
- Chapter 37 (relating to robbery)
- Section 4302 (relating to incest)
- Section 4304 (relating to endangering welfare of children) if the offense involved sexual contact with the victim
- Section 6301(a)(1)(ii) (relating to corruption of minors)
- Section 6312(b) (relating to sexual abuse of children)
- Section 6318 (relating to unlawful contact with minor)
- Section 6320 (relating to sexual exploitation of children)
Previous to passage, this exception had only applied in cases of homicide, assault, kidnapping, burglary, robbery, and a narrow number of sexual offenses.
A seventh victims’ rights bill that did not go to the governor’s desk, but which won General Assembly approval is a joint resolution for an amendment to the state constitution amending Article I by adding “Rights of Victims of Crime.” Commonly referred to as “Marsy’s Law,” the origins of this act take place in California when one week after her 17-year-old daughter Marsy was murdered by an ex-boyfriend, Marcella Leach stopped at a grocery store on the way home from her daughter’s funeral and saw Marsy’s alleged murderer. Leach didn’t know that the individual had posted $100,000 bail just days earlier. Free to walk the streets of his California hometown, he entered a grocery store, where he crossed paths with Leach. That encounter set in motion a nationwide victims’ rights movement that has changed constitutions in six states.
The Marsy’s Law for Pennsylvania campaign aims to amend the state Constitution to ensure justice and due process for crime victims through each step of the criminal justice system. House Bill 276 provides for the following:
- To be treated with fairness and respect for the victim’s dignity and privacy;
- To have victim’s safety considered in fixing bail and release conditions;
- Reasonable and timely notice and ability to be present at all public proceedings;
- Notification of pretrial disposition of the case;
- To be heard in any proceeding where a right of the victim is implicated, except before a grand jury;
- Notification of all parole procedures and participation in the parole process;
- Reasonable protection from the accused or those acting on their behalf;
- Reasonable notice of release or escape of the accused;
- To refuse an interview, deposition, or other discovery request made by the accused;
- Full and timely restitution upon conviction;
- Prompt return of property no longer deemed evidence;
- To proceedings free of unreasonable delay and prompt and final conclusion of the case and any related postconviction proceedings;
- To confer with the attorney for the government; and
- To be informed of all rights enumerated under this section.
House Bill 276 won the legislature’s approval for a second-straight legislative session. In order to be added to the state constitution, amendments must be passed by the House and the Senate in two consecutive legislative sessions, which it has, so now it will be a referendum question on the ballot for the state’s voters to decide in the upcoming November General Election.
Did You Know…
Did you know the National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS) found that the number of persons age 12 or older who had been victims of violent crime during the prior six months increased from 2.7 million in 2015 to 3.1 million in 2017?
Learn About Medical Marijuana, Get a Flu Shot at Annual Senior Fair
On Thursday, Sept. 5, I will be hosting a FREE Senior Fair at the Dormont Recreation Center, located at 1801 Dormont Avenue. The Senior Fair will run from 9:30 a.m. – 12:30 p.m. Light refreshments will be served.
New this year, attendees will have the chance to learn about Pennsylvania’s medical marijuana program!
Do you suffer from chronic pain, cancer, PTSD, or one of the other 21 qualifying medical conditions? Do you have questions about medical marijuana or need help obtaining your Pennsylvania medical marijuana card? Join Dr. John Metcalf and pharmacists from Maitri Medicinals at my Senior Fair for on-site medical marijuana card certifications and education. Contact 1-833-667-4665 or firstname.lastname@example.org to ensure you come prepared to the event with the necessary medical information.
American Healthcare Group will once again be on hand to provide flu shots for attendees. There is no charge for the flu shots to anyone with a Medicare Part B card. Please bring your card with you.
At the Sept. 5 Senior Fair, attendees can also:
- Drop off unwanted medications as part of Sheriff Mullen’s Project D.U.M.P.
- Visit with a pharmacist from Duquesne University’s School of Pharmacy to ask about medications
- Get blood pressure checked
- Receive important information from participating organizations on services and resources available to seniors
Anyone with questions can contact my district office at 412-344-2551. If you need a flu shot, want to learn more about medical marijuana, have unwanted medications you need to dispose of, or want to receive important information from some of our region’s finest organizations and senior advocates, I hope you’ll consider attending this free event.
Mixed-Use Development Tax Credits
The Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency (PHFA) is accepting bids for the purchase of an additional $1 million in mixed-use development tax credits. An earlier round of tax credit bidding closed on June 14. The funds collected from successful bidders will be used for the construction or rehabilitation of mixed-use developments in Pennsylvania communities.
Bidding on this additional $1 million in mixed-use development tax credits started last Monday. The deadline for bidding is 2 p.m. this Friday, July 26. Bids can be emailed to MUDTaxCredit1@phfa.org.
These tax credits will be used by the winning bidders – which can be companies, organizations or individuals – to reduce their state tax liability. The intent of the bidding process is to generate as much funding as possible from this additional $1 million in tax credits to provide for a significant investment in community revitalization projects in various communities. The projects to receive this funding will be selected during a competitive request for proposals process later this year.
The mixed-use development tax credit was created as part of the Commonwealth’s fiscal year 2016-2017 budget (implemented July 1, 2017), and PHFA was directed to administer the credit. The additional $1 million in tax credits announced last week was made available as part of the fiscal year 2019-2020 state budget. PHFA was authorized to sell these tax credits through directed or negotiated sale to any qualified taxpayer. It is expected that the tax credit awards will be made within 90 days after bidding closes. The tax credit awards will be made in 2019, but they are not effective for utilization until 2020 against a 2019 tax liability.
More information about the mixed-use development tax credit and the current bidding process is available on the PHFA website at: www.phfa.org/mhp/developers/loans.aspx. Program guidelines and bidding criteria are posted there. Interested organizations can learn more by contacting Bryce Maretzki at PHFA at (717) 780-1867 or by email at email@example.com.
Neighborhood Initiative Fund
Last week, the Urban Redevelopment Authority of Pittsburgh (URA) announced it is accepting applications for the Neighborhood Initiatives Fund Program (NIF), a pilot program that will make it easier for City of Pittsburgh communities to access funding for neighborhood-scale projects.
The program, administered by the URA’s Economic Development department, will provide grants up to $100,000 to non-profits and community-based organizations for eligible non-housing, neighborhood projects including, but not limited to:
- Vacant property reclamation and stewardship
- Historic preservation
- Brownfield development
- Construction of public space and neighborhood infrastructure improvements, such as streetscape improvements, transit and transportation-related improvements, parks and open space improvements, green infrastructure, and public art.
Non-profit organizations with for-profit development partners are also eligible to apply.
There are two levels of funding available: Tier 1 includes grants under $20,000 with no matching requirements; and Tier 2 includes grants between $20,000 to $100,000 with matching funds required from non-URA and non-City sources.
The grants will be awarded through a competitive process in order to help unlock the economic and placemaking potential within neighborhoods; support vision-to-action community investment strategies that build an equitable Pittsburgh; and formalize collaborative partnerships across the City.
The first round of applications will be accepted until October 1. Additionally, the URA will host a series of information sessions open to the public throughout the City. These information sessions are scheduled as follows:
August 5, 2019, 6-7 p.m.
Beechview Healthy Active Living Center
1555 Broadway Avenue
August 6, 2019, 6-7 p.m.
West End Healthy Active Living Center
80 Wabash Street
August 8, 2019, 6-7 p.m.
6435 Frankstown Avenue
August 15, 2019, Noon-12:40 p.m.
Webinar - https://us04web.zoom.us/j/907013626
Information Sessions in Central and North locations will be scheduled soon. The program guidelines, applications and funding schedule can be found at https://www.ura.org/pages/neighborhood-initiatives-fund. For additional information, please contact the URA’s Economic Development Department at 412-255-6560.
New Boating Regulations in Pittsburgh
Last week, the PA Fish and Boat Commission (PFBC) Board of Directors approved amendments to a boating regulation that will extend a No Wake Zone along the Allegheny River within the City of Pittsburgh. The amended regulation change will apply to the area known as The Point, where the Monongahela and Allegheny Rivers come together to form the Ohio River. The current No Wake Zone on the Allegheny River will be extended from the 9th Street Bridge upriver to the Veterans Bridge. Additionally, the period during which the regulation is enforced will be extended from October 1 to November 1. The change is intended to create safer conditions for mooring vessels along the Riverwalk due to increased boating traffic in the fall. These amendments will go into effect upon publication in the Pennsylvania Bulletin.
City Piloting Glass Recycling Program
Earlier this year, many recycling and waste companies stopped collecting glass bottles and jars as part of its recycling efforts. As a response, the City of Pittsburgh is starting a pilot program where residents can bring their glass to three locations this summer and fall. Bright, lime-green dumpsters are being placed at Construction Junction in Point Breeze, 3001 Railroad Street in the Strip District and 405 Bausman Street in Knoxville.
The pilot program will run through November 28. For more information, please contact the City of Pittsburgh Environmental Services division at 412-255-2631.
Summer 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.
The 37th annual Brookline Breeze 5K Run and Fitness Walk is scheduled for Saturday, August 10 in Brookline. Brookline Boulevard will be closed to traffic at 8 a.m. to clear the way for hundreds of runners, joggers and walkers.
Fun begins with the Annual Brookline BreezeFest at 10 a.m. with the reopening of the street. Stroll the sidewalks of Brookline Boulevard for the 48+ arts & crafts vendors, farmers market, food trucks and merchant specials. A Children’s area will be located at Tree of Life Church with Bounce Castle, crafts and games.
For more information go on Brookline Together website at www.BrooklineTogether.org.
July is National Ice Cream Month. Worldwide, around 15 billion liters (3.3 billion gallons) of ice cream are consumed every year, enough to fill 5,000 Olympic swimming pools. New Zealand leads the world in ice cream consumption with a per capita consumption of 28.4 liters per year. The United States ranks second with a per capita consumption of 24.5 liters per year.
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