Removal of Statute of Limitations for Childhood Sexual Abuse
Last week, the Senate unanimously passed Senate Bill 261 (SB 261) which removes statute of limitations on child sexual abuse cases. Under current law, an individual entitled to bring a civil cause of action arising from childhood sexual abuse has 12 years to bring their claim after turning 18 years of age. SB 261 increases that limit to 32 years and removes the statute of limitations entirely for cases against individuals who commit acts of childhood sexual assault, conspire with individuals who commit acts of sexual assault or have actual knowledge of childhood sexual assault and fail to report it to law enforcement or child protective services.
One provision that failed to make its way into this particular bill is the one that provides those abused from suing their accuser retroactively. Last session, language appeared in a House bill that included this provision but it was ultimately removed from the bill. I would have preferred the retroactive piece be included in this legislation but was still willing to support SB 261 as it is a positive step forward for victims of childhood sexual abuse.
SB 261 now goes before the House of Representatives where I am sure there will be further debate on the retroactive clause and whether or not it is constitutional and/or appropriate. For me, this legislation should be about victims of sexual abuse, no matter how long ago it happened, not about financial interests.
Last Wednesday I stood with my Senate Democratic colleagues at a press conference where our caucus requested that Governor Wolf call a special session of the General Assembly to finally address the issue of escalating property taxes. A special session will provide a platform to emphasize the topic and an opportunity to discuss the many issues associated with the various plans that have been introduced over the years and bring an energy and focus that will help develop a consensus.
There are many ideas and proposals that have either been introduced or are being discussed that eliminate or reduce property taxes. There has been legislation proposed that some claim would eliminate school property taxes in conjunction with raising the sales and/or income tax. Legislation has also been introduced that puts a freeze on property taxes for seniors and I’ve even written a bill that would provide property tax rebates for baby boomers.
While there are many ideas and proposals in existence that address rising property taxes, there is not consensus at the moment as to how best to move forward. Like any dramatic change in policy, there tend to be winners and losers based on the details of what is being proposed. In moving forward, we need to have a collective conservation understanding that significant changes to our current system have this consequence. There needs to be a serious and factual conversation on what the elimination of property taxes would look like, and how best to balance its replacement and where revenue would ultimately come from.
What do income and sales tax rates need to be to make up for the revenue lost in an elimination of the property tax? If sales taxes are also expanded to more goods and services like home health care and child care which are just two examples of ideas that have been proposed when discussing an expansion of the sales tax, how does that effect consumers? Are these would-be new revenue streams reliable enough to adequately fund our schools?
These are only some of the many questions that have been raised over time on this issue that need to be considered as this conversation restarts. The property tax issue needs to be addressed in a bi-partisan, bi-cameral way and serious proposals need to be deliberated in the open using as much accurate data as possible. As this conversation continues, I would like to hear from you. Please feel free to weigh in and provide your thoughts, comments, questions or ideas that help move this issue forward.
Act 13 Programs Open
The Pennsylvania Department of Community & Economic Development (DCED) began accepting applications last Wednesday for funding through programs under the Commonwealth Financing Authority’s Act 13, Marcellus Legacy Fund. This fund was created by Act 13 of 2012 to provide for the distribution of unconventional gas well impact fees to counties, municipalities and commonwealth agencies. These grants include: abandoned mine drainage abatements; abandoned well plugging; sewage treatment; greenways, trails, and recreation; baseline water quality data; watershed restoration; and flood control.
Grant applications are being accepted through May 31. For more information on these programs and to apply, please visit http://dced.pa.gov/ and type “Marcellus Legacy Fund” in the search tab.
Did You Know…
Did you know that in 2016 the CFA approved $14 million in funding to support 94 projects around Pennsylvania through the Act 13 Marcellus Legacy Fund programs?
Property Tax/Rent Rebate
The Pennsylvania Department of Revenue is now accepting applications for the 2016 Property Tax/Rent Rebate Program. If you filed a paper rebate last year, you should receive an application in the mail. Applications are also available at my district offices, online at www.revenue.pa.gov or by calling 1-888-222-9190. As always, my staff would be happy to assist you in preparing your application.
The Property Tax/Rent Rebate Program benefits eligible Pennsylvanians age 65 and older; widows and widowers age 50 and older; and people with disabilities age 18 and older. The income limit is $35,000 a year for homeowners and $15,000 annually for renters. Please keep in mind, half of Social Security income is excluded. Some applicants who previously received rebates may continue to qualify despite Social Security cost-of-living adjustments that may have pushed their income past the eligibility limits.
Applications are due to the Department of Revenue by June 30. The program is funded by the Pennsylvania Lottery and revenue from slots gaming.
The Pennsylvania Department of Human Services continues to accept 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.
Trout Stocking Schedules Available
The Fish and Boat Commission (PFBC) have 2017 adult trout stocking schedules available online and on the PFBC’s “FishBoatPA” mobile app. Anglers can easily search the trout stocking schedules for locations and dates of interest. To view the list, simply go to www.fishandboat.com, click on the link “Fish” in the upper right corner, then select Trout Stocking Schedules. From there, select a county and enter start and end dates from the calendars at the top of the page. Then press “Go.”
For anglers with smartphones, an even easier way to view the schedules is through the FishBoatPA app, which is available for free from the Apple App and Google Play stores.
Included in this year’s stocking lists are the Keystone Select Stocked Trout Waters, a program where 14 waters across the state will be stocked with large 14” – 20” trout. Approximately 4,500 large trout will be distributed among the 14 waters at a rate of 174 to 225 per mile, which is comparable to the numbers of similarly sized fish in Pennsylvania’s best wild trout waters.
The program was launched last year with eight waters. This year six new waters are being added. Click here to see the list of waters.
Pretty Up Beechview
Pretty Up Beechview is hosting an open community garden meeting on Saturday, March 4 from 1 – 3 p.m. at the Beechview branch of the Carnegie Library. The library is located at 1910 Broadway Avenue. Everyone is welcome to join the meeting to discuss the Beechview Community Garden and opportunities to lease a plot.
Chartiers City, a City of Pittsburgh neighborhood roughly 3.7 miles west of downtown, was named for Pierre Chartiers, a trapper of French and Indian parentage in 1743. Chartiers was formerly a township and was annexed to the City of Pittsburgh in 1921.
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
|Northside (Mobile Office)
Carnegie Library |
1230 Federal Street
Pittsburgh, PA 15212