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Senator Wayne D. Fontana

Clean Slate Law Goes into Effect

Nearly 1 in 3 Pennsylvania adults has some type of criminal record.  Even minor crimes committed like under-age drinking or loitering can affect opportunities many years down the road in areas like education, employment and housing.   The good news is that the commonwealth has begun sealing millions of nonviolent criminal records thanks to Act 56 of 2018 going into effect.  Dubbed the Clean Slate Law, Pennsylvania now holds the honor of becoming the first state in the nation to implement this meaningful reform. 

Clean Slate LawThe Clean Slate Law allows an individual to petition the court for their record to be sealed if a person has been free from conviction for 10 years for a summary offense that resulted in a year or more in prison and they have paid all court-ordered financial debts.  The act also allows the automatic sealing of records for a second or third-degree misdemeanor that is punishable by up to a two-year prison sentence if the person has been free from convictions for 10 years.  Additionally, automatic sealing would take place relating to charges that resulted in non-convictions including charges that were dropped or where an individual was found not guilty.   

After a record is sealed, it will no longer be available to the public or show up on background checks used by the majority of employers, landlords and colleges.  However, the records will still remain visible to law enforcement agencies, employers who are required to consider records under federal law and those who use FBI background checks like schools, hospitals and banks.  It is important to note that these records will be sealed, not expunged.

Some examples of the minor crimes that one may have committed to have their record sealed includes low-level retail theft, false swearing on official matters, welfare fraud, defiant trespassing, harassment and disorderly conduct.  However, crimes involving guns, sexual assaults/rapes, murder, kidnapping, child endangerment and endangering the welfare of children are not subject to Act 56.   

According to the Administrative Office of Pennsylvania Courts, an estimated 30 million cases will be eligible for auto-sealing – or half of the cases in the state court’s database. Courts and an automated computer process will have until June 27, 2020 to wipe cases from public databases.  Although Pennsylvania is the first state to implement the law, other states are working on passing similar measures. 

I think many of us would agree that we aren’t the same person we were more than 10 years ago.  Especially in our youth, we make mistakes and hopefully learn from them.  The Clean Slate Law going into effect will now give individuals found guilty of low-level, non-violent criminal offenses a fresh start at rebuilding their lives by removing the barrier of a decades-old conviction. 

PHARE Funding Expanded

HouseI am pleased to report that as part of the budget process, the cap on funding for the Pennsylvania Housing Affordability and Rehabilitation Enhancement Fund (PHARE) was increased from $25 to $40 million. The new funding will help to create more affordable housing, provide services that helps keep Pennsylvanians in their homes, helps low-income people become first time homeowners, and provides funding to communities to address blight.

PHARE is the state housing trust fund and was created in December 2010. PHARE receives funding from three sources, a portion of the Realty Transfer Tax (RTT), a portion of Marcellus Shale Impact Fees, and the National Housing Trust Fund. Marcellus Shale Impact Fee funding can only be used in those communities. The RTT amount can be used statewide and is based on a formula that grows as the real estate market grows. The RTT amount was previously capped at $25 million and this legislation will lift the cap to $40 million. Based on the strength of the real estate market, up to $15 million more could be added to the PHARE funds.

Did You Know…

Did you know that according to the National Low-Income Housing Coalition, for every 100 extremely low-income households, there are only 42 affordable units?

Gun Violence Reduction Initiative – Deadline this Friday!

Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency (PCCD) GrantsI want to remind all local governments that the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency (PCCD) has announced the availability of $1.5 million in state funds to support Gun Violence Reduction Initiatives. All counties, townships, boroughs, and cities in Pennsylvania are eligible to apply. The primary purpose of this initiative is to support the implementation of strategies that will result in reduced gun violence in local communities.

Applications are due in the PCCD’s Egrants system no later than this Friday.  For assistance with the Egrants system, please contact the PCCD Egrants Help Desk at 717-787-5887 or RA-eGrantsSupport@pa.gov. To view the entire funding announcement, please click here or visit https://www.pccdegrants.pa.gov/Egrants/Public/OpenAnnouncements.aspx and then click on the “2019 Gun Violence Reduction Initiative” link.

Slot Machine Revenue Increases in 2018-2019

Slot MachineThe Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board announced last week that slot machine revenue increased 1.1 percent during the recently completed 2018-2019 state fiscal year, compared to the previous fiscal year.  Slot machine revenue was up in nine of the 12 months and totaled $2,378,859,341, approximately $26.5 million higher than revenue in 2017-18.  Tax revenue generated from slot machines during 2018-19 totaled $1,237,085,077.  To date, since the opening of the first casino in November 2006, revenue from slot machines has totaled $27 billion resulting in a tax generation of $14.5 billion.

The state’s gaming industry employs over 16,000 people and generates approximately $1.4 billion annually in tax revenue from both slot machines and table games.  For more information on gaming in Pennsylvania and to read reports from the Gaming Control Board, please visit them online at www.gamingcontrolboard.pa.gov.

Allegheny County Community Health Assessment

The Allegheny County Health Department (ACHD) and its advisory coalition are developing the next Community Health Assessment (CHA). As part of this process, they have created a survey for residents to help identify the priority health issues impacting their communities. This survey has a particular focus on health equity and will be used to design a new Community Health Improvement Plan, which will outline goals and strategies to improve the health and wellbeing of all Allegheny County residents.

The survey became available a few weeks ago and will continue to be available through October 4. This survey is open to all residents of Allegheny County over 18 years of age. By taking the survey, you are helping ACHD identify the key needs of Allegheny County communities.

If you’re interested in taking the online survey, please click here or visit https://achd.checkboxonline.com/CHA2019.

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.

July 4Fontana Fact

The first 4th of July celebrations were held a mere four days after independence was declared. However, it was not until 1938 that Independence Day became a paid federal holiday.

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