Autonomous Vehicles are Here!
Last week, I participated in a news conference at Schenley Park that formally announced my involvement in Senate Bill 1268 (SB 1268) and a task force that will oversee the safe development of autonomous vehicles in Pennsylvania. Although Carnegie Mellon University has been working on a self-driving vehicle for nearly three decades, more recently, a partnership with Uber has really advanced efforts between the two to make autonomous vehicles the new reality. For this reason, a bipartisan group of legislators felt the need to draft legislation to put mechanisms in place to make sure these vehicles of the future are safe to be on our roadways.
Autonomous vehicles have the capabilities to be self-driving through the use of a series of cameras, lasers, and computers that view and analyze everything around it. These specialty cars can follow a pre-set route, abide by speed limits and traffic signals since they are able to brake and accelerate as conditions require and basically predict what another car beside or near it next’s steps are.
Since current law does not address driverless-vehicles, SB 1268 has been introduced that will allow the testing of autonomous vehicles on Pennsylvania roadways after certain conditions have been met. These include entering into a contract with the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT), meeting state and federal safety laws or obtaining permission to operate, carrying $5 million in insurance plus standard auto insurance, and reporting all crashes including minor fender benders. Cars without drivers would need to be marked as well.
Under the legislation, PennDOT would have the ability to establish additional conditions such as requiring logging so many miles on a less-busy road accident-free before being allowed to operate on busier highways and interstates. Under SB 1268, an operator or tester of an autonomous vehicle would also have to make sure that the car could be taken over immediately by human control if technology suddenly fails.
Eighteen states, now including Pennsylvania, either have enacted autonomous vehicle legislation or have bills pending. SB 1268 is located in the Senate Transportation Committee and it is expected that a series of hearings on this matter will be held in the coming weeks to get feedback from such stakeholders like Uber, Google and Carnegie Mellon University.
The creation of the Autonomous Vehicle Testing Policy Task Force, headed by PennDOT, was also announced at the press conference that will be charged with overseeing technology developments. The task force is made up of representatives of state and federal transportation officials, university and education professors, trucking and automotive groups as well as the state police.
Autonomous vehicles are not a wild dream rather the newest means of transportation that are being brought to life in our own backyard. The Pittsburgh region being recognized as a sought after place to develop these vehicles will help us to continue achieving the status of the most livable city! For that reason, we need to regulate these cars and provide uniformity in the rules so that there is a level playing ground for all makers.
It is also important to note that Pittsburgh has been chosen as one of seven finalists for the U.S. Department of Transportation’s $50 million Smart City grant that will be awarded next month. This grant was created to encourage cities to find new solutions to traffic congestion and other transportation problems like distracted driving. Our hopes are that the introduction of SB 1268 will better our chances of winning this grant and place Pennsylvania on the map as a global leader in autonomous transportation.
12th Annual FontanaFest – DATE CHANGE!
Due to a scheduling conflict at Highmark Stadium, I want to let everyone know that the 12th Annual FontanaFest has been rescheduled for Saturday, September 24 from 11 a.m. – 3 p.m.
Once again, parking will be free in the stadium’s West Lot, compliments of Forest City!
The annual community event is perfect for families and children, promoting healthy and active lifestyles by providing many fun activities and crafts. Children will also have the chance to play on several inflatables, an obstacle course, and a climbing wall. All attendees also are provided with the opportunity to engage with several organizations from around the region and receive important information on available services and programs, safety, nutrition, and health care. I’m also thrilled that once again this year, students from Pittsburgh Musical Theatre will join us to perform at 11:15 a.m.!
Stay tuned throughout the summer for updates on the schedule of events, participants, and more.
Seniors Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program
Qualifying seniors in Allegheny County will soon be able to pick up vouchers for locally grown fruits and vegetables. The Senior Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program is a federal program that is administered at the state level by the Pennsylvania Department of Aging in conjunction with the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture. This program attempts to provide seniors who are nutritionally at risk a means to purchase fresh fruits and vegetables from approved Pennsylvania farmers.
The program provides recipients with four $5 voucher checks for a total year benefit of $20 to redeem at qualified farmers’ markets. Checks may be spent through November 30 on produce that is grown in Pennsylvania or purchased directly from a Pennsylvania farmer.
Some examples of produce that may be purchased under the vouchers are apples, beans, berries, carrots, grapes, melons, spinach and tomatoes. Customers must spend the entire $5 check and change will not be given.
The distribution of voucher checks will take place next Tuesday, June 14 at senior centers throughout Allegheny County. Checks are distributed on a first-come, first-served basis. Seniors are asked to bring identification showing proof of age and residency to the distribution site.
To be eligible, individuals must be an Allegheny County resident who will be 60 years old by December 31, 2016. The income limit for a one-person household is $21,978 and is $29,637 for a two-person household. Married couples may each receive one set of checks. If an eligible consumer requires a proxy to receive their checks, the proxy is responsible for signing for and spending the checks for the individual. All individuals must completely fill out a proxy form in order to have a proxy receive checks for them.
For a complete listing of voucher check distribution locations and times, or to download a proxy form, please visit the Allegheny County Department of Human Services website at http://www.alleghenycounty.us/dhs/olderadults.aspx. A listing of distribution sites, farmers’ market locations and proxy forms can also be picked up in my district offices. Anyone with questions on the program can also call the Allegheny County SeniorLine at 412-350-5460.
Fresh Paint Days in Pennsylvania – Grant Applications
Keep Pennsylvania Beautiful is accepting applications for their Fresh Paint Days Pennsylvania program. The annual program, held in partnership with Behr and The Home Depot, is designed to provide community groups with paint and painting supplies to enable them to renew a community structure in need of some attention.
Applications are available by clicking here or visiting http://illegaldumpfreepa.org/keep-it/ and are due no later than July 31. All applications will be evaluated by a review committee with grants awarded in August. Projects must be completed during Fresh Paint Days Pennsylvania, September 1 – 30.
Below are a list of grant criteria and more information about the program.
- Available to any tax-exempt group in Pennsylvania. Private property owners or individual applicants cannot apply.
- Each application is eligible for up to 20 gallons of exterior paint provided by Behr and a $50 Home Depot gift card for painting supplies.
- Only one building per application is allowed. Applicants can submit multiple applications.
- Once receiving award notification, applicants must provide proof of liability insurance and signed permission to paint from the property owner.
- Required to submit two “before” photos of the intended project.
- Applicants must adhere to a 20 gallon limit of exterior paint, chosen from the Behr line.
For more information about the grant program please contact Michelle Dunn at 1-877-772-3673, ext. 113 or email@example.com.
Preventing Overdose Deaths
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.
Since the project started in April, Sheriff’s Office Evidence Technician Deputy Joseph Cirigliano has confiscated nearly 500 pills from Allegheny County residents. 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.
Allegheny County residents wanting to make an appointment for a sworn Sheriff’s Office Evidence Technician to pick up medication at their homes are invited to telephone the Project D.U.M.P. Hotline at 412-459-5000. Following recovery, all seized medications are legally disposed of through evidence destruction orders.
Did You Know…
Did you know that drug overdose is the leading cause of accidental death in the U.S. with more than 47,000 lethal drug overdoses in 2014? Nearly 19,000 overdose deaths were related to prescription pain relievers.
In recent weeks and months, taxpayers have been receiving phone calls from IRS impersonators suggesting to the person they owe money. Most recently, these bogus phone calls from IRS impersonators have been demanding payments for a non-existent tax, the “federal student tax.”
Even though the tax deadline has passed, scammers continue to use varied strategies to trick people. The most recent scam involves trying to convince people to wire money immediately to the scammer. If the victim does not fall quickly enough for this fake “federal student tax” the scammer threatens to report the person to the police.
The IRS is urging all taxpayers to stay vigilant against these calls and to know the telltale signs of a scam demanding payment. Please know the IRS will never do the following:
- Call to demand immediate payment over the phone, nor will the agency call about taxes owed without first having mailed you a bill.
- Threaten to immediately bring in local police or other law enforcement groups to have you arrested for not paying.
- Demand that you pay taxes without giving you the opportunity to question or appeal the amount they say you owe.
- Require you to use a specific payment method for your taxes, such as a prepaid debit card.
- Ask for credit card or debit card numbers over the phone.
If you get a phone call from someone claiming to be from the IRS and asking for money and you don’t owe taxes, here’s what to do:
- Hang up immediately and don’t give out any information.
- Contact the U.S. Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) to report the call by calling 1-800-366-4484.
- Report it to the Federal Trade Commission by visiting www.FTC.gov and clicking on “File a Consumer Complaint.” Please add “IRS Telephone Scam” in the notes.
More information on how to report a phishing or phone scam is available on www.irs.gov.
Summer Food Program for Children
Children ages 18 and younger can participate in the Allegheny County Summer Food program beginning June 13. Summer Food will run in over 80 locations in Allegheny County through August. At these locations, which will be announced soon, children can receive a free breakfast and lunch during the summer recess from school. For more information on the program, including information on locations and times, please call the Allegheny County Department of Human Services at 1-800-851-3838.
Morningside Community Yard Sale
Morningside’s annual community yard sale will be held on Saturday, June 25 and Sunday, June 26 from 8 a.m. – 2 p.m. each day. There are upwards of 100 homes participating, starting on Baker Street at Jancey Street. Everyone is invited to join the fun, food and find a treasure or two. Proceeds from the yard sale benefit Morningside Area Community Council neighborhood events.
The Pittsburgh Penguins are currently battling the San Jose Sharks in the National Hockey League’s Stanley Cup Finals and are looking to claim their 4th Stanley Cup championship since the organization’s birth in 1967. The Stanley Cup is the oldest trophy competed for by professional athletes in North America. It was donated in 1892 by Sir Frederick Arthur Stanley, Lord Stanley of Preston, and son of the Earl of Derby after being originally purchased for what amounted to $50, to be presented to the championship hockey club in Canada. National Hockey League teams began competing for the Stanley Cup in 1926. Here’s hoping the Cup spends the summer of 2016 in Pittsburgh, again!
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