Senate Passage of Legislation to Assist Homeowners with Sewer Lateral Repairs
It is no secret that in Western Pennsylvania, the majority of homes are older and our infrastructure is aging. This includes the sewer laterals that are both on private property and under public property. A sewer lateral is a privately-owned pipeline, which every home has, that connects a property to the publicly-owned main sewer line. Unbeknown to many, it is the responsibility of the property owner to maintain and repair the lateral.
In February, The New York Times published an editorial which highlights the need to upgrade these networks of underground pipes. The editorial board points out that it is not just Flint, Michigan, that has spent too little on its public works system, but a situation that every state needs to evaluate “as governments at all levels have become obsessed with cutting spending.”
Private laterals can have structural deficiencies allowing for inflow of groundwater and stormwater to the wastewater treatment facility, as well as overflow into rivers and streams. Furthermore, broken laterals are also often to blame for sinkholes and potholes. An Allegheny County Sanitary Authority study estimated that 40 percent of the excess sewer water it receives on dry days is the result of unwanted infiltration and inflow from damaged sewer laterals. This percent skyrockets to a whopping 80 percent during rainstorms. If the Legislature acts now, we can prevent Pennsylvania from becoming the next state to declare a public health emergency.
Recently, my Senate Bill 289 (SB 289) passed the Senate that would allow municipalities and municipal authorities to make public funds available to repair or replace broken laterals on private property when the leaks pose a threat to public health or safety. It is important to highlight that my legislation does not force any municipality to participate and this is only an enabling bill. It would be up to each and every local water authority to decide if they want to designate public funding for such a cause and determine the guidelines for eligibility for such a program.
The City of Pittsburgh has over 1,200 miles of this lateral sewer pipe. On average, a local resident has a lateral that is 42 feet in length on their property. To fix a broken lateral, it has been estimated to cost anywhere between $5,000 to $30,000, which most homeowners do not set aside such a significant amount of money and are unable to pay for this pricey expense. As a society, we need to put tools in place that grants municipal authorities the ability to take corrective actions for failed private laterals so that the commonwealth can help prevent a major catastrophe.
I believe SB 289 offers a reasonable avenue for municipalities to assist homeowners. I would also like to point out that a form of this legislation has been introduced by numerous members from both political parties for over 20 years.
The legislation is now before the House Environmental Resources and Energy Committee for consideration.
Medical Marijuana Update
Applications for the Pennsylvania Medical Marijuana Program’s Safe Harbor Letter are now available for parents, legal guardians, caregivers and spouses to administer medical marijuana within Pennsylvania to minors under the age of 18 in their care who suffer from a physician-documented “serious medical condition” as specified in Act 16 of 2016, under Section 2106.
This section provides that if a parent, legal guardian, caregiver, or spouse of a minor under the age of 18 with a serious medical condition lawfully obtains medical marijuana from outside Pennsylvania to be administered to that minor, the parent, legal guardian, caregiver, or spouse does not violate the Act, or the Pennsylvania Controlled Substance, Drug, Device and Cosmetic Act.
Parents, legal guardians, caregivers, and spouses who will be applying for the letter must have certain documents secured before beginning the submission process. All applicants will need a photo ID, will have to complete a background check, and must obtain a Safe Harbor Physician Form from the minor’s Pennsylvania-licensed doctor. Legal guardians will need to provide guardianship papers, spouses will need to submit a marriage certificate, and caregivers must include proof of caregiver status. The application process will be done completely online, so all documents must be submitted in electronic form. Individuals without computer access can call 1-877-PA-HEALTH for assistance.
The PA Department of Health developed the Safe Harbor temporary guidelines to thoroughly and carefully outline the specific requirements that must be followed when a parent, legal guardian, caregiver, or spouse is applying to obtain medical marijuana to administer to minors who have a physician-documented serious medical condition. While the Safe Harbor Letter is intended to serve as approval for Pennsylvania parents, legal guardians, caregivers, and spouses to possess and administer medical marijuana to minors within their care in the commonwealth, marijuana is a Schedule I controlled substance under federal law. The U.S. Department of Justice has the authority to enforce civil and criminal federal laws relating to marijuana use and possession.
The medical marijuana program in Pennsylvania was signed into law in April and became effective on May 17 with implementation expected to take between 18 and 24 months. When fully implemented, the program will offer medical marijuana to patients who are residents of Pennsylvania and under a physician’s care for the treatment of a serious medical condition as defined by the Act. Temporary regulations are expected to be issued by the end of 2016 for growers/processors, dispensaries/laboratories, physicians, parents and caregivers, and certain research institutions. The temporary regulations will explain the medical marijuana program’s operation and will be in place for two years from the date they are published.
Questions regarding the Medical Marijuana Program can be emailed to RA-DHMedMarijuana@pa.gov. The Department of Health also has published a Frequently Asked Questions document that is available by clicking here. You may also visit www.health.pa.gov and click on the “PA Medical Marijuana” tab for more information about the law.
Slot Machine Revenue Increases During 2015-16
The Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board announced last week that revenue generated from slot machines in Pennsylvania grew 2.3 percent during the recently completed 2015-16 fiscal year compared to the previous fiscal year. It was the second consecutive fiscal year in which total slots revenue grew in Pennsylvania. Total slots revenue for the fiscal year that ended June 30 totaled $2,388,658,549 compared to $2,335,787,919 during the 2014-15 fiscal year. Tax revenue produced through slot machine play during the 2015-16 fiscal year totaled $1,276,133,621.
Tax revenue from slot machines is designated under the Gaming Act to fund homeowner property tax reduction; increase purses and provide health and pension benefits to personnel in the horse racing industry; provide revenue toward economic development projects statewide including water and sewer projects; assist thousands of local fire and emergency companies with annual grants; and provide a new stream of tax revenue to the county and local governments which host a casino.
The state’s gaming industry employs over 17,000 people and annually generates more than $1.4 billion in tax revenue from slot machines and table games play. For more information on gaming in Pennsylvania and to read reports from the Gaming Control Board, please visit them online at www.gamingcontrolboard.pa.gov.
Did You Know…
Since the opening of the first slot machine casino in November 2006, revenue from slot machines has totaled $20 billion resulting in tax generation of $11.3 billion.
12th Annual FontanaFest
I want to remind everyone that the 12th Annual FontanaFest is scheduled for Saturday, September 24 from 11 a.m. – 3 p.m. at Highmark Stadium, home of the Pittsburgh Riverhounds.
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, nutrition, health care, jobs and jobs training. 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.
Sports & Exhibition Authority Hiring Project Assistant
The Sports & Exhibition Authority of Pittsburgh and Allegheny County (SEA) is searching for a Project Assistant. This position is responsible for assisting the Executive Director, Project Executive, Facilities Director, Development Manager, Staff Attorney, Sustainability/Project Coordinator and other staff and Board members with respect to program and project coordination and administration and other project-related tasks as assigned.
Interested applicants should send a cover letter including salary history, resume, transcript and writing samples to Rosanne Casciato at email@example.com or via first class mail to:
Sports & Exhibition Authority
171 Tenth Street, 2nd Floor
Pittsburgh, PA 15222
PHEAA Hiring for Green Tree Location
The Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency (PHEAA) is hiring full- and part-time, entry level positions for Call Center Representatives/Loan Counselors, working in a fast-paced call center environment at its Parkway Center facility. The facility is located at 11 Parkway Center. Interested applicants are encouraged to visit www.pheaa.org/jobs to learn more about available opportunities and to submit an application in order to be considered for employment.
PHEAA offers competitive salaries, paid training, regular pay increases, medical benefits, and career advancement opportunities. Spanish speaking skills are a plus. The agency is an equal opportunity employer.
Upcoming Lunch and Learn Event
Today is the last day to register for the Allegheny County APPRISE/Allegheny Link program Lunch and Learn scheduled for this Thursday. APPRISE is the State Health Insurance Assistance Program (SHIP) for Pennsylvania’s Medicare beneficiaries. The Pennsylvania Department of Aging created APPRISE to help citizens with Medicare understand their health insurance options so they can make informed decisions about which plan is best for them.
The July 14 event will feature a presentation on the private insurance coverage under the Medicare system. A key characteristic of the Medicare system is the reliance on private insurance enhancements and supplements to help with the costs that traditional Medicare (Parts A and B) does not cover. This presentation will examine the different kinds of private insurance coverage under the Medicare system such as Medigaps, Part C Advantage plans, Part D drug coverage, and employer sponsored coverage. Presenters will show how each type of product works, their strengths and weaknesses, and how they coordinate with Parts A and B. Also how to compare and evaluate each option to get the most effective coverage will be discussed.
The program starts at 11:30 a.m. with lunch with the presentation beginning at noon and running until 3 p.m. and will take place at the Allegheny County Human Service Building, located at One Smithfield Street in downtown Pittsburgh.
For more information about this program or to R.S.V.P., please contact Bill McKendree at 412-661-1670, ext. 645 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Congratulations to Chief Rudzki
I want to offer my congratulations to Sharpsburg Borough Police Chief Leo Rudzki on his retirement. Chief Rudzki began with the Sharpsburg Police Department in 1975, serving as a Patrol Officer, Sergeant, Captain, and the last 12 years as Chief. He also has served the community as the Emergency Management Coordinator. He officially is retiring on August 5 but the Borough honored him at a ceremony last week at the Sharpsburg Municipal Center. I was proud to have a Senate Citation presented to him for his exemplary efforts on behalf of Sharpsburg over the years.
Congratulations again to Chief Rudzki and best wishes for a happy retirement!
On July 15 - July 16, the Rachel Carson Bridge in Downtown Pittsburgh will transform into Picklesburgh, highlighted by a giant flying Heinz pickle balloon. The Picklesburgh festival is a culinary celebration that goes beyond the dill pickle to include international dishes, prepared foods and artisan cocktails that feature pickled ingredients; an embrace of the farm-to-table movement and the rising popularity of canning; a selection of handcrafted foods and artisan cocktails from local restaurants; informative how-to demos and author talks at our demo area; merchandise such as pickled goods, books and DIY products. In light of this event, it is important to know that Americans consume 2.6 billion pickles each year, which comes to about nine pounds of pickles per person.
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