A Lifesaving Law
Seven years ago, an 18-year-old named Kelsey Smith from Kansas was abducted in broad daylight in the parking lot of a Target store. Kelsey was then raped and strangled to death with her own belt. It took four days for Verizon Wireless, her cell phone carrier, to hand over information about the location of her cell phone, which she had on her when she was abducted. After Verizon supplied the request, Kelsey’s body was found in a wooded area in Missouri within an hour.
Act 181 of 2014 was recently signed into law that would require wireless providers to “ping” the cell phone of a missing person at the request of law enforcement when there is sufficient information to believe there is a risk or threat of death or serious physical harm. A “ping” is a term used to describe the whereabouts of a cell phone by tracking the last signal with the nearest tower, which can take place even if the phone is not being used.
Since 2005, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has required cell phone manufacturers to include GPS receivers in all devices. Although federal law already allows the release of such information to pinpoint the location of 911 callers in an emergency, in most cases, a subpoena is required in Pennsylvania to get access to this same information.
In Kelsey Smith’s case, surveillance video showed there was reason to believe she had been abducted; however, because she did not dial 911, her location was not released by her cell phone provider despite pleas from her family and law enforcement. Passage of Act 181 will expedite the process of finding a missing person since obtaining a subpoena often takes time and can delay law enforcement’s response to a situation.
Pennsylvania now joins 13 other states that require wireless providers to ping an endangered person’s cell phone. At the same time, since the technology is already embedded in all mobile devices, this new law will come at no cost to taxpayers.
It is the duty of law enforcement to help protect civilians from predators and Act 181 will now give these individuals one more tool to reduce response times and ultimately save lives. I supported this legislation because every second matters when searching for missing persons and this will provide investigators another tool to assist in their efforts.
Innovate in PA Insurance Tax Credits
Innovate in PA was signed into law (Act 52 of 2013) to ignite Pennsylvania’s economic growth and generate capital with the creation of high-wage jobs through technology-based companies across the state. Specifically, the program will provide insurance premium tax credits to taxpayers in exchange for taxpayer contributions to venture investment programs through the Ben Franklin Technology Development Authority and regional biotechnology research centers.
The program grants the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development (DCED) the ability to sell – with the assistance of Atex Petros - $100 million of deferred insurance Premium tax credits to qualified buyers. A qualified buyer is an insurance company that is authorized to do business in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. The capital generated through the sale of the tax credits will be allocated to DCED’s economic development partners.
It has been estimated that Innovate in PA will create more than 5,350 new technology industry related jobs and more than double the return-on-investment back to the state. With that being said, a targeted sale date for the Insurance Premium Tax Credits has been set for the end of January or beginning of February 2015.
If you are a smaller, Pennsylvania-based insurance company that wishes to participate or has additional questions, please contact Sheri Collins at DCED at 717-720-1396 or firstname.lastname@example.org. You may also view frequently asked questions by clicking here.
LIHEAP is Open
The Pennsylvania Department of Human Services (DHS) is now accepting applications for this season’s Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP). The program helps low income families pay their heating bills. You can apply and check the status of your application on the state’s COMPASS website. You can also pick up an application in my district offices, or download one yourself from the DHS LIHEAP website. Completed paper applications should be returned to one of the Allegheny County Assistance Offices.
Funding for LIHEAP is provided by the federal government and eligibility is based on Federal Poverty Income Guidelines. The income limits for this season are as follows:
After your application is received, you will receive a written notice explaining your eligibility and the amount of assistance you will receive. Payments are generally sent directly to a utility company or fuel dealer and are credited to your account. For more information, please contact the LIHEAP hotline at 1-866-857-7095.
Property Tax/Rent Rebate Program and Social Security COLAs
I want to remind everyone that if you have not filed for a rebate through the Pennsylvania Property Tax/Rent Rebate Program, the deadline has been extended to December 31st.
If you received a rebate last year, you should have received an application in the mail. If you did not receive an application, or did not apply last year and wish to apply this year, the applications can be obtained from any of my district offices and my staff would be happy to assist you in preparing your application.
The Property Tax/Rent Rebate Program benefits eligible Pennsylvanians age 65 and over; widows and widowers age 50 and over; and people with disabilities age 18 and over. As I have mentioned in recent weeks, a new law will allow more Pennsylvania senior citizens to be eligible for the state’s Property Tax and Rent Rebate Program should the Social Security cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) be increased. Passage of Act 156 of 2014 comes at a perfect time with the announcement that Social Security beneficiaries will receive a 1.7 percent COLA in their monthly payments starting in January 2015.
Believing no older Pennsylvanian should be disqualified from receiving rebates just because of a Social Security COLA, the Pennsylvania General Assembly rectified this situation by changing the eligibility guidelines under Act 156. Now, any homeowner with an annual income of up to $35,298 for 2013 and who collects social security and received a property tax rebate will continue to qualify for the Property Tax Rebate. The same goes for renters with an annual income of up to $15,128.
The Pennsylvania Department of Revenue will automatically review previous claim year 2013 applications where the rebate was denied for income in excess of $35,000 for homeowners and $15,000 for renters. In the cases where a homeowner or renter’s overage is due only to a Social Security COLA, the department will re-open, process and then pay these claims. It has been estimated that approximately 6,000 seniors will now be protected from losing their rebate this fiscal year because of passage of Act 156, and up to nearly 9,000 by the 2016-17 fiscal year.
I realize that many Commonwealth residents on fixed incomes rely on the Property Tax and Rent Rebate Program for some financial relief and these individuals should not be punished because of a COLA and that is why I supported passage of this law.
Winter Weather Driving
As temperatures drop and winter weather increases, the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) is reminding motorists to use caution and slow down during inclement winter weather conditions. The majority of crashes in 2013 that occurred in PennDOT District 11 were the result of snow, slush or ice on roadways along with aggressive driving behaviors. Aggressive driving includes speeding, following too closely, changing lanes, and running red lights.
To avoid a winter weather aggressive driving crash, motorists should remember to allow extra time during their commute, allow extra space between vehicles, and exercise patience. Drivers should also be aware that state laws indicate they must clear their vehicle of ice and snow before driving, and to also use their headlights if their wipers are on.
PennDOT offers the following additional winter driving tips:
- Before traveling, check your vehicle’s fluid levels, tires, wipers and make sure all lights are functioning properly
Do not attempt to pass a plow truck
- Pack an emergency travel kit including; bottled water, blankets, first aid supplies, ice scraper, snow shovel, and anything you may need for family travel
For more winter safety tips and other highway safety information, please visit www.JustDrivePA.com.
Did You Know…
Did you know that PennDOT used more than 1.2 million tons of salt on state-owned roads last winter?
Allegheny County and the City of Pittsburgh are looking for volunteers, county-wide, to help elderly and disabled residents stay safe this winter through the Allegheny Snow Angels program. Snow Angels is a program that pairs volunteers with elderly or disabled residents to assist with snow removal.
Snow Angels was originally launched in 2011 by the City of Pittsburgh’s servePGH initiative, which successfully matched hundreds of volunteers to shovel over 50,000 square feet of city sidewalks. In 2013, the program was adopted by the United Way’s Open Your Heart to a Senior program, giving volunteers the opportunity to make an even larger, county-wide impact. This season, Snow Angels is working in partnership with Family Services of Western Pennsylvania, and North Hills Community Outreach.
This volunteer opportunity is open to anyone living in Allegheny County, and is great for families and high school students. Volunteers are asked to help at least one resident for the entire for the entire 2014-15 winter season. Shovels and salt are available by request. To receive assistance from a Snow Angel, residents must reside in Allegheny County, be age 60 or older or have a physical disability and must lack alternative snow removal resources.
To learn more about the program or to register as a volunteer, please call 412-863-5939 or 2-1-1, visit http://alleghenysnowangels.org or email email@example.com.
Local Eagle Scout
I wish to congratulate Joseph Nagy on achieving the rank of Eagle Scout, the highest advancement rank available in the Boy Scouts of America. Joseph is the son of Christian Jester and James Nagy.
Joseph has been a member of Troop 6, which is sponsored by Church of the Resurrection in Brookline, since 2007. Prior to that, he was a member of Cub Scout Pack 601. One of the lessons Joseph has taken away from his time in scouting is how to be a better leader. As a result, Joseph has held many leadership positions outside of scouting, like serving as team captain on his football and baseball teams. Joseph’s Eagle Scout project involved the installation of rails in the classrooms at St. John Bosco Academy that provided needed space to hang smart boards in each room. Doors were also fitted for safety locks for added security.
Congratulations to Joseph on achieving the rank of Eagle Scout and I look forward to seeing you continuing to make a positive impact on your community!
On this day, December 2nd, in 1932, a ribbon-cutting ceremony was held in celebration of the opening of the West End Bridge. Originally called the West End-North Side Bridge, the $3.6 million project connected the North Side neighborhoods with newer communities in the West End and South Hills.
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