A Notice to Voters
On Nov. 8 when voters go to the polls for the General Election, please know that one of the questions on the ballot will ask you whether to amend the state constitution allowing judges to remain on the bench until the end of the year in which they turn 75. This is five years longer than is currently permitted.
As necessary for all questions to change the state constitution, a proposed amendment has passed the state Legislature in two consecutive sessions and appeared on the spring primary ballot. However, this year posed a unique situation where lawmakers essentially invalidated those votes.
Weeks before the constitutional amendment was scheduled to appear on the April ballot, a resolution was pushed through the General Assembly delaying the question on the ballot until November. Many felt the resolution was necessary citing the ballot question was unwieldy and confusing thus changing the wording so that it removed any reference to the existing mandatory retirement age of 70. This prompted many lawsuits from both political parties. However, in September, a 3-3 split decision by the state Supreme Court left the ruling intact and the reworded question will be seen on the November ballot.
The ballot question will appear like this:
“Shall the Pennsylvania Constitution be amended to require that justices of the Supreme Court, judges, and magisterial judges be retired on the last day of the calendar year in which they attain the age of 75 years?”
Please know that this mandatory retirement age question applies to roughly 1,000 justices, judges and district judges that are currently serving in Pennsylvania.
Three Local Projects Receive Funding
I am pleased to announce a total of $1.4 million in state grant and loan funds for three Allegheny County projects. This state support will help supplement local efforts to improve, redevelop and move the ball forward on these three important local projects.
The funds, approved yesterday by the board of the state’s Commonwealth Financing Agency program, would provide:
- A $200,000 grant for Stowe Township to build a 900-foot storm sewer near the intersection of Tunnel Way and Island Avenue. The project should help solve a run-off issue that has caused problems for Tunnel Way, as well as a nearby stream. The project will utilize storm pipes to capture and transfer flows from the collection point at the intersection of Dunn and Wilson Streets to the storm system downstream on Tunnel Way. In addition, a manhole will be installed and a sewer line inlet will be replaced. The improvements will reduce impediments to pedestrian and vehicular traffic along the sidewalk and eliminate debris and sediment from washing out onto the roadway and into the stream that is a tributary to the Ohio River. The total project is $361,604. The restoration will include about 2.5 miles of stream.
- A $200,000 state grant to help reconstruct an historic fountain that dates back to 1868, along with 7.5 acres of historic landscape promenade in Allegheny Commons, Pittsburgh’s oldest park. The corner of the Commons currently only contains a planter and looks blighted and deserted. The grant monies will be used for site preparation. The total project cost is $1.6 million.
- A $1 million state “Business in our Sites” low-interest (3 percent) loan to help redevelop the Henry Miller Springs building in Sharpsburg Borough. The building, which was constructed approximately 80 years ago sits on a six-acre industrial brownfield site. Along with improving the building, the money will be used to widen the access road and turning lanes to the property. The property is being marketed for light manufacturing and warehouse distribution. The total project cost is $1.45 million.
The CFA grant program is funded with revenue from the Pennsylvania Gaming Economic Development and Tourism Fund. In addition to statewide property tax relief, a portion of gaming dollars is used to fund public works and economic development projects.
Gas Drillers Need to Work With our Communities, Not Against Them
Below is an opinion piece I drafted that was published in outlets last week.
I was disappointed to hear that the Marcellus Shale Coalition is already scurrying into court in an attempt to overturn parts of Pennsylvania’s new gas drilling regulations.
The industry needs to understand that our people are entitled to safety, security and a clean environment. Our communities deserve a say in where gas drilling should take place, how it can be safely conducted and what precautions should be in place.
Hopefully, we learned a few retrospective things from the state’s coal and steel industries of days gone by. Taxpayers are still footing the bill to clean up hazardous waste sites, and bring life back to our polluted lands and streams. We are not going to stand back again and meekly allow these new gas drilling conglomerates to hobble modern day taxpayers with the same shameful legacy of abandoned strip mines, brownfields and rusting eye sores.
It’s important to emphasize that these new drilling regulations were not some hastily crafted, one-sided, unreasonable attack on the Marcellus Shale industry. The state Department of Environmental Protection spent a great deal of time taking input and testimony from citizens, community leaders, environmental experts, as well as industry advocates. Thousands of people offered input and many hearings were held around the state.
While the new regulations may not be perfect, they are a reasonable and balanced means to assure that our people and environment come first. The regulations also provide fair and clear direction to those who are engaged in the state’s booming Marcellus Shale industry.
The Shale Coalition is doing the public a disservice by attempting to weaken or eliminate provisions that were crafted after years of hearings and study. I’m also disappointed that the industry is commandeering its assault on the new regulations through costly court suits.
There are pending bills in the legislature that can be used to address many of the issues that the industry objects to. Before attacking the state’s new rules in courtrooms, industry proponents should have reached out to legislators and state regulators to try and find common ground or workable resolutions to their issues.
Instead of finding legal loopholes in regulations that require them to spare endangered species, plug abandoned wells, and responsibly deal with spills and site restoration, industry representatives should embrace the opportunity to be good corporate partners and stewards of our lands and waterways.
Gas drillers should not take an adversarial role against our government leaders and environmental advocates.
Pennsylvania welcomes the industry’s growth, its jobs and its contribution to our state’s economy. All we are asking is that drillers be responsible, respectful and accountable to our people.
Dispose of Unused Medications in Brookline
Allegheny County Sheriff William Mullen recently implemented an initiative to help residents safely eliminate unused and expired narcotic medications. Project D.U.M.P. (Disposal of Unused Medications Properly), allows citizens to contact a Sheriff’s Office Evidence Custodian who will report to their residence and take possession of any unwanted medications. The Sheriff’s Office established this program to help curtail opioid and heroin related overdoses and overdose deaths in Allegheny County.
I’m pleased that Sheriff Mullen is taking Project D.U.M.P. on the road and his office will be collecting unwanted and/or unused medications in my Brookline office on Tuesday, Nov. 22 from 10 a.m. – 2 p.m. My Brookline office is located at 932 Brookline Boulevard.
The Sheriff’s Office continues to stress that drug take-back programs are among the safest options for disposing of unused prescription narcotics, and that medications such as Vicodin, Percocet, and Oxycontin should not be thrown in the trash, flushed down the toilet, or left around the house for others to access.
If you have any medications you want to dispose of, I encourage you to visit my office on Nov. 22. Anyone with questions on Project D.U.M.P. can contact Deputy Joe Cirigliano at 412-459-5000.
Did You Know…
Did you know that last year in Allegheny County more people died from
drug overdoses than homicides, suicides, and car accidents put together?
I want to remind everyone that next Wednesday, Nov. 2, I will host and co-chair a Democratic Policy Committee hearing on the issue of early voting and other election reforms. I have introduced Senate Bill 255 (SB 255), allowing early voting in Pennsylvania. This hearing will take place at the August Wilson Center in the Highmark Room at 10:00 a.m. The August Wilson Center is located at 980 Liberty Avenue in downtown Pittsburgh. The hearing is open to the public and I encourage everyone to attend.
LIHEAP Opening November 1
Beginning Tuesday, Nov. 1 the Pennsylvania Department of Human Services will be 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 the Allegheny County Assistance Office, 5947 Penn Avenue, 4th Floor, Pittsburgh, PA, 15206.
Funding for LIHEAP is provided by the federal government and eligibility is based on the 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 provider and will be credited to your heating account. Crisis grants may also be available if you have an emergency situation and are in jeopardy of losing your heat. For more information, please contact the LIHEAP hotline at 1-866-857-7095.
PennDOT Accepting Multimodal Applications
The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) is accepting applications through Dec. 16 for funding transportation improvement projects under the Multimodal Transportation Fund. Eligible applicants include municipalities, councils of governments, businesses, non-profits, economic development organizations, public transportation agencies, Transportation Management Associations, ports, rail, or freight entities.
The Multimodal Fund was created by Act 89 of 2013. Four types of projects are eligible to receive funding. They are: projects which coordinate local land use with transportation assets to enhance existing communities; projects related to streetscapes, lighting, sidewalk enhancement and pedestrian safety; projects improving connectivity or utilization of existing transportation assets; and projects related to transit-oriented development. A local match of at least 30 percent is required.
For more information on PennDOT’s Multimodal Transportation Fund, please visit www.penndot.gov and click on “Multimodal Program” under the “Projects & Programs” tab.
Table Games, Overall Casino Revenue Rises
The Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board announced recently that gross revenue from table games play at Pennsylvania’s 12 casinos during September was up 4.35 percent over revenue generated during September 2015. Revenue generated from table games in September was more than $68.7 million compared to the $65.9 million generated in September 2015. Total tax revenue from table games in September was over $11.1 million.
The increase in table games revenue during September combined with September slots revenue resulted in an overall gaming revenue increase for the month of just under 3 percent.
Table games in Pennsylvania are taxed at 16 percent with the majority of that revenue directed into the state’s General Fund and the remaining funds directed to local governments. Slot machines are taxed at 55 percent in Pennsylvania and directed as follows: 34 percent for property tax reduction; 12 percent supporting the horse racing industry; five percent is placed in a state economic development fund; and two percent goes to local governments that host casinos.
The state’s gaming industry employs over 17,000 people and generates more than $1.4 billion annually in tax revenue from both table games and slot machines. For more information on gaming in Pennsylvania and to read reports from the Gaming Control Board, please visit www.gamingcontrolboard.pa.gov.
Job Fair – TONIGHT!
The Allegheny County Department of Human Services is hosting a job fair this evening to showcase current and potential career opportunities. The job fair is scheduled tonight from 5 – 7 p.m. at the Human Services Building, located at One Smithfield Street in downtown Pittsburgh. Free parking is available behind the building.
Representatives from the County’s Department of Human Services will be on hand to discuss open and frequently posted positions, employee benefits, and internship opportunities. There will also be information about the Pennsylvania State Civil Service process and representatives from the KEYS Service Corps AmeriCorps Program attending. Open positions that will be represented include: County Caseworkers; Mental Health Specialists; Aging Care Managers; Community Health Nurses; and Clerk Typists.
For more information and a listing of current openings, please visit http://www.alleghenycounty.us/Human-Services/Careers.aspx
Trick or Treat Safety
With Halloween scheduled for next Monday and communities celebrating the holiday at different times, I want to remind everyone driving through neighborhoods to be mindful of trick-or-treaters and watch your speed. In last week’s edition of my News & Views, I published a schedule of trick-or-treating hours and other community events within the 42nd Senatorial District. To view the listing please click here.
Trunk or Treat
The Salvation Army - Pittsburgh Temple, located at 1060 McNeilly Road, is hosting their inaugural Trunk or Treat event this Friday. The free event runs from 7 – 8:30 p.m. and seeks to make the community aware of its presence and the several programs available for children, teens, and adults. Kids are welcome to dress up in their Halloween costumes and enjoy candy, food, games and more. For more information on the event or if you’re a business interested in participating please contact Tony at 412-207-2127, ext. 104.
Upcoming Bellevue Events
Everyone is invited to Bellevue to tour the beautiful homes and galleries, browse and dine in their vibrant shopping district, and discover the endless possibilities that Bellevue has to offer during their annual Bellevue Live Worship Shop House Tour. Bona Fide Bellevue is organizing this year’s Tour this Saturday from noon – 4 p.m. For more information on how to purchase tickets and for information on Bellevue’s Halloween Costume Parade, scheduled for 10 a.m. that morning, and other events scheduled that day in Bellevue, please visit www.bonafidebellevue.com/events.
Pennsylvania is one of the top pumpkin producing states in the country. In 2014, more than 105 million pounds of pumpkins were produced in Pennsylvania, ranking fourth only behind Illinois, California and Ohio.
Offices of State Senator Wayne D. Fontana
| Brookline District
932 Brookline Blvd.
Pittsburgh, PA 15226
Weekdays – 9 am – 5 pm
543 Main Capitol
Harrisburg, PA 17120
Weekdays – 8:30 am – 5 pm
524 Pine Hollow Road
Weekdays – 10 am – 4 pm
| Beechview Satellite
1660 Broadway Avenue
Pittsburgh, PA 15216
Tuesdays – 10 am – 4 pm
|Northside (Mobile Office)
1230 Federal Street
Pittsburgh, PA 15212
Wednesdays – 10 am – 4 pm
|Lawrenceville (Mobile Office)
279 Fisk Street
Pittsburgh, PA 15201
Thursdays - 11 am - 4 pm