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Senator Wayne D. Fontana

Removing Barriers to Vote

Last week, Gov. Wolf announced that voters could now apply online for an absentee ballot. Previously, voters’ only choice was to complete a paper absentee ballot application and mail or hand-deliver it to the Allegheny County Elections Office.

The website, www.votesPA.com/ApplyAbsentee went live yesterday, the first day that registered voters could apply for absentee ballots for this year’s General Election, which falls on Nov. 5. When an applicant completes the online form, the information is forwarded directly to the appropriate county elections office for processing. The last day to apply for an absentee ballot is October 29 and voters must still mail or hand-deliver their completed ballot to their county election office by the deadline, which is 5 p.m. on Friday, Nov. 1.

Register onlineInitially, online absentee ballot applications will require a PennDOT driver license or ID number in order to be processed electronically. The department is planning an update by 2020 that will allow use by applicants who do not have a PennDOT number.

The PA Election Code allows registered voters to apply for an absentee ballot up until one week before an election, which is just three days before the deadline to submit a voted absentee ballot. This year, the deadline to apply by paper or online is 5 p.m. Tuesday, October 29.

The system is currently accessible to all domestic Pennsylvania voters, and will be available to military and overseas voters by 2020.

Absentee ballots may be cast by individuals with illnesses or disabilities, individuals who will be away from their municipality on business on Election Day, and Pennsylvania students attending out-of-state colleges or universities, among others.

While I applaud the Wolf administration for taking this step to make it easier for citizens to participate in our democracy, we can do more. We should be removing barriers and creating policies that encourage participation in our political process.

This is why I continue to advocate for my legislation that would allow early voting in Pennsylvania, one of only 14 states that does not provide true early voting.  Senate Bill 294 (SB 294) would allow voting to take place 15 days prior to Election Day. Polling places would be geographically located through Pennsylvania and open on both weekdays and weekends so that electors are provided an equal opportunity to participate in the process.

As more and more people become engaged in the political process, we owe it to citizens to make it easier to vote, not more difficult.

Did You Know…

Did you know that since Pennsylvania launched online voter registration in August 2015, more than 1.4 million voter registration applications or changes have been submitted online?

Northside Rail Project Update

A recent investigation performed by the Federal Railroad Administration into the August 5, 2018 Norfolk Southern train derailment near Station Square determined the probable cause was a broken rail because of a detail fracture from shelling or head check on the high side rail of a curve.

Something I believe we can all agree on is that more stringent oversight and accountability is necessary with regard to all rail and other transportation systems in order to provide the safest structures and best practices. In that spirit, I will work to ensure to the best of my ability that all stakeholders work together in the best interests of the safety of the community regarding the proposed project to add double stacked trains through the Northside and into other areas of the county by Norfolk Southern.

After ongoing discussions with local businesses and community groups and hearing the feedback throughout the last year, I worked with the state Department of Transportation and as a result, PennDOT has hired an independent third-party consultant to perform public engagement activities to ensure that community members have a venue to express their concerns and their suggestions on how to effectively integrate the various transportation modes into their neighborhoods. These meetings will be commencing in the very near future.

Upcoming Shredding Event!

Free Paper Shredding Event
With Rep. Dan Deasy and Rep. Anita Kulik, we will be hosting a shredding event on Saturday, Oct. 5 in McKees Rocks. It will be held from 8 – 11 a.m. (or until the shred trucks are full) at the McKees Rocks Shopping Center, located at 114 Chartiers Avenue.

Documents will be shredded on-site by a reputable and bonded company.  Also, all papers must be loose, no binder clips or paper clips, and documents cannot be in binders.

With consumer fraud and identity theft continuing to be an issue, we host these events to not only to raise awareness and promote prevention, but also to provide individuals with the opportunity to have unneeded, confidential documents destroyed free of charge.  You may bring documents that contain personal information such as social security numbers, credit card numbers and bank account numbers. 

Additionally, at this event, Deputy Sheriff Joe Cirigliano will be on hand to collect any unused, unwanted, or expired medications as part of Allegheny County Sheriff Bill Mullen’s Project D.U.M.P. initiative.  This program allows residents to bring any unused, unwanted or expired medications so they can be properly disposed.

PennDOT Multimodal Program

PennDOTThe Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) is accepting applications to fund improvement projects that will enhance Pennsylvania roadways, bridges, transit facilities, park and ride facilities, sidewalk, crosswalk safety improvements, bicycle lanes and route designations under the Multimodal Transportation Fund (MTF) through November 8, 2019.

Eligible applicants include municipalities, council of governments, business/non-profit organizations, economic development organizations, public transportation agencies, public airports, airport authorities, and ports and rail entities. Projects that will be considered should coordinate local land use with transportation assets to enhance existing communities.

Act 89 established a dedicated Multimodal Transportation Fund that stabilizes funding for ports and rail freight, increases aviation investments, establishes dedicated funding for bicycle and pedestrian improvements and allows targeted funding for priority investments in any mode.

PennDOT will evaluate the applications and make selections based on safety benefits, regional economic conditions, technical and financial feasibility, job creation, energy efficiency, and operational sustainability. PennDOT expects to announce grant recipients next year and funding will become available in July 2020.

For more information please click here or visit www.penndot.gov and click on “Multimodal Program” under the “Projects & Programs” tab.

Funding for Housing Initiatives

Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency (PHFA) The Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency (PHFA) has issued a Request for Proposals soliciting applications from organizations for projects to improve the availability and affordability of housing across the commonwealth. Funding for this RFP is being provided through the Pennsylvania Housing Affordability and Rehabilitation Enhancement (PHARE) Fund. The total PHARE funding available this year exceeds $54 million.

PHARE receives its funding from a number of sources. These include the impact fee levied on natural gas drilling companies, a portion of the Realty Transfer Tax, and money from the National Housing Trust Fund. Funding is available for housing initiatives in all of Pennsylvania’s 67 counties. PHFA is charged with administering the allocation of PHARE dollars.

PHARE applications can be completed entirely online, eliminating the need for paper submissions and simplifying the process for applicants. The RFP is located on PHFA’s website at www.phfa.org, and the application is accessible at https://phare.phfa.org/. Applications are due to PHFA no later than 2 p.m. on Friday, Nov. 15.

PHFA is planning two informational webinars for groups interested in applying for PHARE funds. Both webinars will cover the same information. Webinar dates and times are:

Sept. 25 – 10 a.m. to 11:30 a.m.
Oct. 2 – 2 p.m. to 3:30 p.m.    

Interested groups are encouraged to watch the PHARE webpage for links to be posted for webinar registration. The PHARE webpage is available on the PHFA website at www.phfa.org; click on the PHARE link at the bottom of the page under “Resources.” Questions also may be directed to Bryce Maretzki at PHFA via email at bmaretzki@phfa.org or by phone at 717-780-1867.

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.

Fight Addiction Dinner/Dance

The second annual fundraiser to fight addiction is scheduled for Saturday, Oct. 5 in the Cathedral Room of the St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church, located at 419 South Dithridge Street in Oakland.  Tickets can be purchased at www.eventbrite.com.

This event is held to honor those who have lost their battle to addiction and those who still suffer from this disease.  All proceeds from the event will benefit the Light of Life Rescue Mission and Addiction Recovery Ministry, two organizations dedicated to helping the addicted and their families.

Former news anchor Sally Wiggin will serve as the emcee for the evening and Come Together, a Beatles tribute band will perform.  Dinner and entertainment are included in the ticket price.  There will be a cash bar, 50/50 raffle, silent auction, gift cards, and theme gift basket raffles.

Anyone wishing to share photos of loved ones for the memorial wall can contact Julie Truver at truverja@yahoo.com or Julie Truver, 135 Grienbrier Drive, Carnegie, PA 15106.

Beechview Manor Fundraiser

Beechview Manor is hosting an open house and fundraiser this Sunday from 9 a.m. – noon.  They are located at 1926 Pauline Avenue in Beechview.  The fundraiser features a pancake breakfast that includes eggs, sausage, orange juice and coffee.  There will also be three 50-50 drawings.  All proceeds benefit Beechview Manor’s senior citizen residents. For more information please call 412-571-2999.

Fontana Fact

It was on this day in 1787 that the Founding Fathers signed the U.S. Constitution. Since that time, the Constitution has served as the supreme law of the land, and along with the Bill of Rights, and other amendments, define our government and guarantee our rights.

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