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Senator Wayne D. Fontana

A New Office of Advocacy and Reform

CapitolAn executive order was signed recently that created an Office of Advocacy and Reform within the governor’s office to study the current social and protective services systems and make recommendations.  This has come after a series of incidents in which people have been harmed while in state or county human services care. Governor Wolf has expressed the present system is outdated, rigid and convoluted and it is clear that it isn’t working for many individuals.  This executive order aims to figure out what is going wrong and where improvements can be made for our state’s most vulnerable population which includes everyone from children, the mentally ill, physically disabled and the elderly.   

Within the Office of Advocacy and Reform will be a new state Child Advocate position, to focus on child safety and legal protections, as well as a 25-member Council on Reform, that will serve in an advisory capacity.  The council’s purview includes looking at what happened to earlier studies, review state and federal law, identify reforms needed and make recommendations to overhaul Pennsylvania’s protective services system. 

The executive order also orders state agencies to:

  • Reduce the institutionalization of children and adults at residential treatment facilities and nursing homes among other care facilities;
  • Study to determine the financial impact of exploiting older adults;
  • Implement a statewide child welfare system;
  • The Department of Human Services will procure a state-of-the-art licensing system to share licensing, data and incident reports at care facilities between state agencies and departments;
  • Standardize compliance measures for care facilities that aren’t up to state standards;
  • A stronger, more-timely referral process to investigate abuse allegations; and
  • Use data analysis to identify and provide additional oversight to high risk care providers.

Governor Wolf has appointed members to the Council on Reform, who met for the first time on July 31, who represent local government, community advocates, health care providers and state cabinet officials. The reform council will submit a report on their findings by November 1.  

Action Need on Gun Reform

End Gun ViolenceAs many of you know, I have authored two bills that would help save lives as our nation continues to deal with horrific mass shootings.  Last year I introduced Senate Bill 292 (SB 292) which would prohibit a person from possessing, manufacturing, importing, selling or transferring an assault weapon or large capacity magazine in Pennsylvania. I also introduced Senate Bill 293 (SB 293).  This bill would allow a family or household member or a law enforcement officer to petition the court for an extreme risk protection order (ERPO) if they believe that an individual poses a significant danger of causing personal injury to oneself or others.

Since being introduced early in 2018, both bills have sat in the Senate Judiciary Committee and no action on either has taken place.  The majority party controls which bills get voted on and clearly, they have shown no interest in moving either of these two bills.

After the latest mass shootings that took place in El Paso, TX and Dayton, OH, the Republican chair of the Judiciary Committee indicated she would hold a series of public meetings related to gun laws in Pennsylvania. I have respectfully requested that she include my two bills as part of the discussion in these upcoming hearings.

I believe the United States Congress should be addressing the epidemic of gun violence that continues in our country. Considering the republican leadership in the U.S. Senate has repeatedly shown no desire to pass meaningful reforms, we at least need to make reforms here in Pennsylvania and my two bills would do that.

Did You Know…

Did you know that a Franklin and Marshall College poll of 627 registered voters across Pennsylvania that was conducted July 29-Aug. 4, with the final calls going out just as the nation was learning of the mass shootings, found that nearly two-thirds of registered voters said they favor some type of additional laws regulating gun ownership?  Four prior polls, taken between August 2018 and March 2019, all found anywhere from 62% to 65% of those questioned favored additional laws to regulate gun ownership. 

Urban Agriculture Infrastructure Grant Program

MPA’s NEW Urban Agriculture Infrastructure Grant Program The PA Department of Agriculture has announced the opening of the first grant program made possible by the PA Farm Bill. The Urban Agriculture Infrastructure Grant Program will provide $500,000 in funding to increase market opportunities for the commonwealth’s urban agriculturalists. 

Individuals and organizations can apply for the grants at www.esa.dced.state.pa.us/login.aspx through Sept. 6.

The Urban Agriculture Infrastructure Grant Program (UAI) will provide grants to improve agriculture infrastructure in urban areas, the aggregation of product, sharing of resources, and support for community development efforts. Projects must include improvements to agricultural infrastructure in urban areas and support for community development in the project service area. Two types of grants can be awarded: “microgrants” and “collaboration” grants. Microgrants of up to $2,500 can be used for one-time projects or a single entity applicant. Collaboration grants (up to $50,000) demonstrate cooperative or regional efforts which share resources, aggregate agricultural products or producers, promote the sharing of resources among agricultural entities, and support community development.

For more information on this grant program, please visit www.agriculture.pa.gov.

New Senior Citizen ConnectCards

Senior Citizen ConnectCardsThe Port Authority of Allegheny County is in the process of issuing new Senior Citizen Connect Cards and my office can assist. The new cards will replace the current blue or yellow PA Senior Transit ID cards and will have a photo of the cardholder on the card. These new cards will enable the user to ride Port Authority and other public transit vehicles for free across the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.

Both my Brookline and Kennedy Township offices are equipped to help seniors get their new cards. Simply visit either office and bring with you ONE valid document that shows proof-of-age.  This includes a driver’s license or state-issued photo ID card, birth certificate, PACE ID card, or passport to name a few. My staff will enter your information into Port Authority’s system and upload your photo and a copy of your proof-of-age document. 

Upon receiving the information from my office, the Port Authority will produce a new Senior Citizen ConnectCard and then mail the card to my office where you can return to pick up the card. New cards should take a couple weeks to arrive at my office from the time Port Authority receives the information. When you return to get your new card, please bring with you your current senior bus pass so we can exchange it for your new ConnectCard.

Anyone age 65 or over is eligible to receive this new card and ride Port Authority and other public transit vehicles for free.

Learn About Medical Marijuana, Get a Flu Shot at Annual Senior Fair

Annual Senior FairOn 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, anxiety disorders, or one of the other 23 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 shelly@mms4relief.com 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.
  • Have your photo taken to receive a new, updated Senior ConnectCard that will allow you to ride Port Authority buses and light rail for free
  • 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.

Civic Leadership Academy

The City of Pittsburgh is accepting applications through next Tuesday, August 20 for its Civic Leadership Academy program.  The Civic Leadership Academy is a free, 11-week course that encourages more informed, effective and inspired community and civic leadership by giving City residents an opportunity to learn about their local government.

The Civic Leadership Academy is held twice per year and applications are open to anyone who lives in, or owns and operates a business, within the City of Pittsburgh. Each class meets with over 15 departments, offices, bureaus and authorities of the City of Pittsburgh to learn about their operations, programs and services.

The Fall 2019 session will be held every Wednesday, Sept. 4 through Nov. 20, 2019, from 6-8:30 p.m. with the exception of October 9 where there is no class. Childcare is available upon request, and dinner is provided with each session.

Anyone interested can learn more by visiting https://pittsburghpa.gov/oca/cla. Applications are available at https://pittsburghpa.gov/oca/cla-application.

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.

Tutors Needed

OASISAn hour a week can change a child’s life!  Become an Oasis tutor and have the opportunity to give back, have fun and make a difference.  Oasis is a non-profit organization that recruits and trains older adults (50+) to tutor children in the Pittsburgh Public, Wilkinsburg and Woodland Hills School Districts in grades K-4 in reading and writing. 

Oasis has tutors in over 32 schools serving over 200 students yearly.   All training, materials and clearances are free.  Training sessions will be held on Tuesday, August 20 and Thursday, August 22 from 9 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. at the Oasis Office located in the Duquesne Light Building, 411 Seventh Avenue, Suite 525 in downtown Pittsburgh. 

For more information on how to become an Oasis tutor, please call John D. Spehar, Director, Pittsburgh Oasis Intergenerational Tutoring Program at (412) 393-4768 or email him at jdspehar@oasisnet.org. Oasis is a program of Literacy Pittsburgh.

International Left-Hander’s DayFontana Fact

Today is International Left-Hander’s Day. It is believed that roughly 10-12 percent of individuals on Earth are left-handed. Over the years, the percentage of people who are left-handed has continued to rise. In 1860, roughly 2 percent of the world population was left-handed with that number rising to 4 percent by 1920.

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