Senator Fontana speaks at a September 26th press conference where he welcomed some of the nation's top fishermen to Pittsburgh for the Marcellus Shale Coalition 3 Rivers Challenge.
Fourteen top bass and walleye anglers on the FLW circuit participated in a three-day event along Pittsburgh's three rivers, including a celebrity pro-am and a charity fishing competition that benefited aquatic and environmental education programs for children. Pictured behind Senator Fontana from left to right are: Larry Richert (KDKA Radio) - Master of Ceremonies, Kathryn Klaber - President, Marcellus Shale Coalition, and Marc Gergely - State Representative, 35th Legislative District.
Judge Blocks Portion of Voter ID Law
Earlier today, Commonwealth Court Judge Robert Simpson stayed the mandatory requirements of the Voter ID law (Act 18) for at least the 2012 general election. This means that the state of the law reverts to what it was during the primary where voters can be educated about the a possible requirement for photo ID in the future, but cannot be required to show one in order to vote.
What this means:
Should voters show up at the polls on Election Day, November 6th, and do not have photo ID, they must still be allowed to vote in the actual voting machine -- not be forced to complete a provisional ballot.
The court did not rule on the constitutionality of the concept of voter ID, but instead indicated that it would conduct a full trial on that issue in the near future.
Register to Vote!
I want to remind all my constituents that October 9th is the last day to register to vote for the November 6th General Election. All voter registration forms must be received by the Allegheny County Office of Elections no later than October 9th. If you are in need of a voter registration form, you can visit one of my district offices and we will provide you with one. If you’re not able to visit, you can call one of my offices and we will mail you the form. You may also download and print the form at www.votespa.com. If you wish to register to vote in person, you may do so at the Allegheny County Office of Elections at 542 Forbes Avenue, Suite 604 in downtown Pittsburgh.
Another Transportation Funding Solution
It’s no secret there is a funding crisis for transportation projects in Pennsylvania. In fact, our state now leads the nation in deficient bridges and our overall road quality is quickly deteriorating. The Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission, which is required to provide the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) with $450 million annually under Act 44 of 2007, is also more than $7 billion in debt.
As the situation continues to deteriorate, the state Legislature continues to put pressure on Governor Tom Corbett to start enacting some of the proposals suggested by his Transportation Funding Advisory Commission. In the mean time, the General Assembly has passed a law that can address some of the transportation circumstances our state is currently facing.
Act 88 (House Bill 3) was passed this summer which is a potential solution to our state’s aging transportation infrastructure and funding crisis. Created by Act 88, public-private partnerships, known as P3s, would create a state partnership with a private firm or company by leasing a state facility or asset for the purpose of developing, constructing, managing, repairing, maintaining, operating and/or financing transportation projects. Although the Commonwealth would retain ownership of the asset, in return for their investment, a firm would be permitted to collect tolls for example on an asset, and keep the proceeds as their profit.
It is believed that there is a potential $200 billion in private equity available for P3 investment opportunities to tackle some of the state’s aging highways, bridges, tunnels, overpasses, and other transportation projects throughout Pennsylvania. Money generated by P3s would be allocated to a designated Public-Private Transportation Account and used exclusively for funding transportation needs in our state.
Furthermore, the stimulation of private investment into our transportation system will also spur job creation in fields like construction and engineering and many more spin-off industries. It is predicted that projects that have been on hold will be completed more quickly now because P3s will have up-front money and expertise will be readily available. A partnership will not only allow Pennsylvania to seek proposals from the private sector but the private sector can also bring their own ideas for meeting the needs of the state.
A seven-member board will compose the independent Public-Private Transportation Partnership Board made up of the Pennsylvania Transportation Secretary as chairman, the budget secretary, one member appointed by the governor, and four members appointed by the General Assembly. The board will be charged with examining and approving potential P3 projects.
If the board decides a state operation would be run more cost-effectively by a private company or firm, the company would be authorized to partially or completely take over that operation. The Legislature would be able to override board approval of a project within 20 calendar days.
In the Pittsburgh region alone, P3s could be beneficial. Some likely candidates to be examined would be the congestion on the Parkway East and West, completing sections of the Mon-Fayette Expressway and Southern Beltway Projects to bring it all the way into Pittsburgh, and everyday road work in some of the routes commuters take on a daily basis. In the coming months, officials will be determining guidelines the partnerships will follow and it may be up to two years until any projects are underway.
In closing, when only about five percent of PennDOT’s annual budget is being used for new construction projects, Pennsylvania needs an alternative solution to the financing crisis our transportation system is facing. P3s provide for a new way of thinking and that is one of the reasons I supported Act 88. Our state needs to continue to explore how we can reduce overall costs but still continue to provide the services needed and required to the taxpayers of Pennsylvania.
Health Care Stalemate
Last year, news broke of an agreement between Highmark and West Penn Allegheny Health System (WPAHS) that would see the health plan acquire the hospital. As WPAHS has faced mounting debt obligations, this news was seen by many as a means to keeping WPAHS in business. Most importantly, it was viewed by many as an important component in preserving competition among hospital providers in the region, affording consumers the choices they deserve in their health care needs while also protecting health care-related jobs. The Pennsylvania Insurance Department has held public hearings on the affiliation agreement and has been working with all parties involved to review the agreement before providing ultimate approval.
In the last week, we have come to learn that the affiliation agreement, signed between Highmark and WPAHS in November 2011, was terminated by WPAHS. News reports suggest the termination was caused largely by Highmark’s insistence that WPAHS file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in order to reorganize its near $1 billion debt obligation. Regardless of the reasons, I am very disappointed the merger between Highmark and WPAHS has been called off.
As the region’s second largest health system, the inability of WPAHS to continue offering health care services would be detrimental to thousands of consumers in the region. If they are not able to strike a deal with Highmark it seems WPAHS does not have many viable options. Are there other partners that would be willing to assume WPAHS’ large debt? If WPAHS can’t find another partner or another merger opportunity doesn’t materialize, doesn’t WPAHS still face the potential of bankruptcy?
The biggest losers in this situation are the consumers, who stand to be deprived of needed choices in their health care with the potential loss of a major health care provider. Thousands of employees will also be negatively impacted. Unfortunately, as we continue to witness, consumers and employees are often overlooked when battles take place in boardrooms.
Maybe the time has come to seriously consider implementing a single payer health care system in Pennsylvania? The Family & Business Healthcare Security Act, Senate Bill 400 (SB 400), is before the Senate Banking & Insurance Committee. This bill would reduce costs for consumers, allow consumers to pick their own doctor, allow consumers and their doctor to determine the best course of treatment (not an insurance company), prohibit denial of coverage due to pre-existing conditions, make health care consumer-based instead of employer-based and is portable. You can read more about the benefits of a single payer system in PA by visiting http://healthcare4allpa.org/.
Free Assistance with Securing a Job!
The third installment of Skills for Success: The Fontana Series is underway at the Carnegie Library-Knoxville branch. Workshops there began last week with two more scheduled for this Thursday and Friday. After finishing at the Knoxville branch this week, the series will move to the Beechview branch beginning October 11th. If you are currently looking for a job or if you need assistance with any aspect of the job searching process, these free workshops will serve as a great resource for you.
I was proud to partner with CLP last year, providing grant funding for this free series aimed at building skills and creating excellent resumes and applications that aid job seekers in achieving the positions they desire. Whether you have already built a resume and are looking to fine-tune it, or if you are starting from scratch and need help with organizing your work history, this workshop will benefit you. I have heard directly from attendees of past sessions who have been able to find full-time work after putting to practice many of the lessons learned from this workshop.
With the state’s unemployment rate tracking upward (8.1% in August), due in part to state budget cuts finally being realized, competition for jobs is difficult and job seekers may need tools to improve their chances at securing employment. This series provides those tools by featuring two separate workshops: one focused on resumes and cover letters, and the other dedicated to interviews and networking. This series also contains a career lab where attendees can work on online applications and explore library resources. Here, individuals receive assistance with resumes, interview skills and online application forms. Due to limited space, registration is required for workshops however walk-ins are welcome for the career labs.
The remaining fall schedule is listed below. To register for one of these free workshops, please email email@example.com or call 412-281-7141, ext. 2012.
CLP – Knoxville branch
400 Brownsville Road
Pittsburgh, PA 15210
Thursday, Oct. 4 – Resumes & Cover Letters
Friday, Oct. 5 – Interviewing & Networking
Workshops – noon – 2 p.m., Career Labs – 2 – 4 p.m.
CLP – Beechview branch
1910 Broadway Avenue
Pittsburgh, PA 15216
Thursday, Oct. 11 – Resumes & Cover Letters
Thursday, Oct. 18 – Interviewing & Networking
Thursday, Oct. 25 – Resumes & Cover Letters
Thursday, Nov. 1 – Interviewing & Networking
Workshops – 3 – 5 p.m., Career Labs – 5 – 7 p.m.
All Senate offices will be closed on Monday, October 8th in observance of Columbus Day. My offices will re-open as scheduled on Tuesday, October 9th.
Revenues & Jobs Rise at PA Casinos
The PA Gaming Control Board recently released its annual report which showed that tax revenues from 11 casinos across Pennsylvania increased 10% in the last fiscal year (July 1, 2011-June 30, 2012). The casinos generated $1.5 billion in tax revenues for the Commonwealth, an increase of $140 million over the previous fiscal year. Additionally, Pennsylvania’s casinos employed 16,406 people during FY2011-12, an increase of over 1,300 workers from the previous fiscal year. These numbers are expected to continue rising as three additional casinos will be opening in the near future. To read the annual report, please visit the PA Gaming Control Board's website.
October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month
October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month and I want women to be aware of the resources offered by the PA Breast Cancer Coalition (PBCC). This organization was formed in 1993 by a dedicated, active and effective group of breast cancer survivors who had one common mission – to find a cure for breast cancer.
In addition to educational programming and legislative advocacy, the PBCC also helps low and moderate income women who are uninsured get free treatment though the Pennsylvania Breast and Cervical Cancer Prevention and Treatment Program. You can take PBCC’s free online course to learn more about this program for newly-diagnosed women by visiting http://www.pabreastcancer.org/free_treatment/. Here, you can also view real-life case studies and hear inspiring stories from breast cancer survivors. If you are in need of free treatment, you may also call the PA Department of Health's HealthyWoman program at 1-800-215-7494.
Did You Know…
Did you know that besides skin cancer, breast cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer among American women? Just under 30% of cancers in women are breast cancers.
Brighton Heights Senior Center Visit
I want to express my gratitude to Lynn Walsh and everyone at the Brighton Heights Senior Center for the warm reception I received on my visit there on September 26th. Thank you very much for allowing me the opportunity to speak with seniors at the center. I enjoyed the dialogue very much and was happy to answer the great questions that were presented to me. I also want to commend the staff and volunteers for making the Brighton Heights Senior Center such a warm and inviting place and for all the work they do in caring for our seniors.
I want to make everyone traveling through neighborhoods in the southern part of the city and beyond aware of the closure of Wenzell Avenue as the city of Pittsburgh performs work on a water main. Motorists traveling outbound will be detoured to Potomac Avenue and those traveling inbound will turn right onto Broadway Avenue before making the left onto Coast Avenue. Wenzell Avenue will be closed for approximately 90 days with the exception of local traffic only.
Red Cross Recognizes Local Hero
Congratulations to Mrs. Karen Murphy of Coraopolis for receiving the Educator Hero Award from the Southwestern PA chapter of the American Red Cross. Mrs. Murphy was one of six community heroes honored at their 4th Annual Red Cross Heroes Breakfast on September 20th. The ceremony was held inside the Lexus Club at the CONSOL Energy Center. The event, which is a fundraiser for the American Red Cross, is designed to honor everyday heroes in six categories. The heroes were nominated by committee members and then voted on by an independent panel of media personnel and community figures.
Mrs. Murphy was recognized for her contributions to the Cornell School District over the last 25-plus years which include 12 years as a school board member and 10 years as the President of the Cornell School District Booster Parents. She has been a key figure in the Central Blood Bank Scholarship Drive which benefits the senior class at Cornell High School as she has donated platelets for over five years. Her donations have helped make the district eligible to receive scholarship money from the blood bank. Mrs. Murphy also played a key role in the district’s implementation of a quality change program in the elementary school that turned around academic programs and student behavior and ultimately helped the elementary school achieve Blue Ribbon School status. She also has volunteered her time over the years on behalf of the district organizing fundraisers, sewing costumes for school plays, and performing alterations on uniforms for athletes and band members.
I applaud the Red Cross for recognizing Mrs. Murphy and all the heroes around us who routinely put forth extraordinary efforts on behalf of their communities. Congratulations again to Karen Murphy!
The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) Southwestern Pennsylvania is holding its 6th Annual Walk on Sunday, October 14th. The 5K Walk will be held at the Three Rivers Heritage Trail at Southside Works to raise awareness and dispel the myths associated with mental illness. NAMI’s goal is to raise at least $200,000 to support mental illness advocacy, research, education and support programs. You can register for the 5K as an individual or as a team on the NAMI Southwestern PA website. For more information please contact Darcey Garda at 412-366-3788 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
High School Sports Update
Below are some of the high school football highlights from the district during week 5:
- Montour improved to 5-0 on the season defeating Ambridge 45-14. Devin Wilson rushed for 130 yards and two scores and Ryan Mihelic passed for two scores in the win. Max Rosinsky threw a touchdown pass and Justin Hill scored on an 86-yard reception.
- Keystone Oaks rallied from an early 21-7 deficit to force overtime, before losing 34-31 at Beaver Falls. Kobe Phillippi threw three touchdown passes to three different receivers (Joe Santillo, Jimmy Cannello, and Cory Sevacko) and Dale Klobuchir rushed for 168 yards and a score.
- Sto-Rox edged Northgate 35-31 behind four touchdown passes from Lenny Williams. Williams also rushed for 224 yards and connected with four different receivers for scores (Brendan Blair, Dan Shackelford, Javelle Kirkland, and Craig Johnson). Blair also rushed for a score. Alex Marusic rushed for two touchdowns for Northgate and Justin Parra rushed for a score and was on the receiving end of a touchdown pass.
- Brentwood rallied from a 7-0 deficit in the 4th quarter and defeated Chartiers-Houston in overtime, 14-7. Chris Shortley connected with Justin Vickless on a 2-yard touchdown pass in the 4th quarter to tie the game. Vickless scored the winning touchdown on a 2-yard run in overtime.
- Michael Boulos rushed for two touchdowns and Andreo Coury scored on a 10-yard touchdown run in Chartiers Valley’s loss to New Castle.
Week 6 High School Football Schedule (All games Friday unless noted)
Montour @ Chartiers Valley, 7 p.m.
South Park @ Keystone Oaks, 7 p.m.
Sto-Rox @ Union, 7 p.m.
Brashear @ Carrick, 3:30 p.m.
Woodland Hills @ Baldwin, 7:30 p.m.
Bishop Canevin @ Fort Cherry, 7:30 p.m.
Carlynton @ Chartiers-Houston, 7:30 p.m.
Clairton @ Brentwood, 7:30 p.m.
Northgate @ Leechburg, 7:30 p.m.
Seton-La Salle @ Leechburg, 2 p.m. (Saturday)
The Carnegie Science Center is celebrating its 11th year of operation on October 5th. A recipient of the 2003 National Award for Museum Service, the Carnegie Science Center inspires and entertains visitors by connecting science and technology with everyday life and engages in outreach programs that serve Pittsburgh’s diverse community. The Carnegie Science Center is located on Pittsburgh's North Shore along the banks of the Ohio River.
Offices of State Senator Wayne D. Fontana
| Brookline District
932 Brookline Blvd
Pittsburgh, PA 15226
543 Main Capitol
Harrisburg, PA 17120
524 Pine Hollow Rd
| Beechview Satellite
1660 Broadway Ave.
Pittsburgh, PA 15216