Subscribe to this e-update.
Senator Wayne D. Fontana

Gun Violence on Our Doorstep: Hatred and Gun Violence Have No Place Here

I write today with a heavy heart. Far too many times, we have all watched in horror as mass shootings play out across our nation. That nightmare has now come to pass in our own backyard.

To our friends and neighbors in Squirrel Hill, we admire your spirit, strength and unity. To members of the Tree of Life Synagogue, we offer our heartfelt sympathy and support as you recover from this harrowing tragedy. To members of the Jewish faith everywhere, we stand with you in solidarity. To our law enforcement and emergency responders, we salute you and thank you for your heroism. We often take for granted your sacrifice and service while all along knowing that you are the literal lifeline of our communities.  

Most of all, to the victims and their families, our hearts are broken for you. It is always difficult to say a premature goodbye to a loved one or watch a family member lie injured in a hospital bed, but the circumstances that you have been dealt are unfathomable to most of us. May you find peace and comfort someplace within the darkness of this senseless act of violence.

A synagogue is a place of peace and reflection, representative of a sanctuary for those practicing their faith. However, on Saturday morning, congregants were victims of bigotry, violence and terror. It was the largest, most heinous act of violence against the Jewish people in the history of our nation. Right here at home. Hate has no place in Pittsburgh or anywhere.

Now that mass gun violence has infiltrated our beloved city within the borders of our Commonwealth, I call on my colleagues in the General Assembly to work together on solutions. While I believe this issue is best addressed at the federal level to ensure uniformity from state to state, “leaders” in Washington always block deliberation. Their failure to do their job and advance commonsense safety measures is why it’s upon us to do what’s right for the health, safety and welfare of our citizens.

Following the tragic events in Parkland, Florida earlier this year, I said enough is enough. That’s why I introduced a package of legislation aimed at addressing gun violence. Senate Bill 17 would institute the Pennsylvania Assault Weapons Ban. These military-grade weapons have no place in civilian life and are unnecessary for self-defense. These guns were made to kill people quickly and efficiently, as proven once again on Saturday.

The second measure is Senate Bill 18. It would establish a system in our Commonwealth for the implementation of Extreme Risk Protection Orders. These orders can empower those who are close to an individual in crisis to ask a judge to temporarily remove the person's guns. This system focuses on individuals who are exhibiting dangerous behavior and have been demonstrated to be an effective means of temporarily preventing people in crisis from having access to guns, while respecting rights to due process. Under current practice, if someone reports their fears to law enforcement, police in most states may not have the authority to intervene, resulting in preventable tragedies. This particular perpetrator had conveyed publicly his views of hatred and superiority on social media platforms, including just minutes prior to the attack. The extreme risk protection order legislation I introduced could help prevent some of these cases. How much more commonsense can it get than that?

Because we find ourselves nearing the end of the current legislative session, I realize critics will say there is not enough time for consideration at this point. That said, I assure you that I intend to reintroduce the legislation and push the issue in the upcoming legislative session. At the very least, public hearings should be held in order to give lawmakers, stakeholders and the public the opportunity to examine the issue and finally have a meaningful conversation. 

For those who might predictably say that I am politicizing a tragedy, particularly fellow elected officials, I say that your inaction and resistance to improvements in our laws is politics at its very worst. Before anyone accuses me of ill intention, I do not seek or wish to infringe upon any law-abiding citizens’ rights. The perpetrator of the weekend’s shootings was the one who infringed upon the constitutionally protected rights under the First Amendment of everyone in that synagogue. And keep in mind our Declaration of Independence. Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness are three examples of our unalienable rights which governments were created to protect.

I readily admit that I, like most, don’t have all the answers. Or do I know if some of the safeguards I stand behind will even work. But what I do know is that we must do something. Isn’t it worth a try? If new measures are put in place and don’t result in any improvements, then we can reevaluate. The point is that we must do something. This growing epidemic has hit home. To continue to sit by and do nothing is a dereliction of duty. It is ignoring our most fundamental responsibility to our citizens.

Our constituents deserve much more than ignorance and complicity. And so many times we hear calls for lawmakers to be “courageous” in the wake of these shootings. Doing what’s right to address what has become a public health and safety crisis is not courageous. It’s the right thing to do. Working to secure the further safety of our people is not a “wedge” issue. It is what we were elected to do.

We cannot let the aftermath of this event become another blindly complicit stain on our nation. Not here in the Steel City and Keystone state. We owe it to the victims of this latest tragedy. We owe it to their families and friends. We owe it to their neighbors and colleagues. In their names, we must come together to protect others from their own fate. 

In the meantime, we must continue on Pittsburgh Strong and Pennsylvania Proud.

PHEAA to launch low-cost PA Forward Student Loan Program

PHEAA PHEAA As the Vice Chair of the Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency (PHEAA) I want to make everyone aware of a new student loan program for Pennsylvania students who need help paying for college after exhausting their eligibility for gift aid, such as the PA State Grant Program, and low-cost federal student loans.

The PA Forward Student Loan Program is a borrower-friendly suite of low cost alternative student loans that will be available to Pennsylvania borrowers, beginning with the 2019-20 academic year. The program includes affordable loans for undergraduate and graduate students, as well as loans for parent borrowers. Additionally, borrowers who are in repayment and want to combine their debt after graduation to achieve a lower monthly payment can benefit from a PA Forward Refinance Loan.

PHEAA is the lender and servicer, with tax-exempt financing provided by the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development (DCED), making PA Forward Pennsylvania’s student loan program.

Many students experience difficulty when trying to pay for all their college expenses after taking advantage of available grants, scholarships, campus-based aid, and low-cost federal student loans. If family savings are not sufficient, students are often forced to rely on alternative student loans - many of which come with strict credit requirements, higher interest rates, and few borrower benefits during repayment.

PA Forward student loan borrowers can borrow up to the total cost of attendance with competitively low interest rates. Additional benefits include no application or origination fees, immediate credit approvals, and flexible repayment options. Borrowers can receive a 0.25 percent interest rate reduction for enrolling in an automatic direct debit program and an additional 0.50 percent interest rate reduction for achieving successful graduation. Borrowers also benefit from a 6-month grace period after graduation before the first payment is due. This allows borrowers time to get their finances in order, including time to find a job, before repayment begins.

Borrowers who take full advantage of the program’s benefits could save thousands of dollars over the life of the loan. Pennsylvania joins 20 other states, including New Jersey and Massachusetts, in offering a similar loan program as a public service to its residents.

PHEAA has a 55-year history of helping students achieve an affordable higher education in the Commonwealth. PHEAA encourages students and their families to exhaust all eligibility for grants and scholarships before considering a student loan. When borrowing is necessary, students should first apply for low-cost federal student loans before turning to an alternative student loan, which often have higher interest rates.

My Smart Borrowing My Smart Borrowing As a reminder, to help students make informed choices about their higher education funding plan that can prevent unnecessary or excessive borrowing, PHEAA created This free resource helps users understand how different career, school, and financial decisions made during the college planning process can influence their total cost of an education and their ability to repay any student loans after graduation.

To learn more about PA Forward loans and to access an application when they become available in 2019, please visit   For more information on finding financial aid to help fund postsecondary education, including tips, deadlines, and free financial aid workshops, visit

enator Fontana visited the Pittsburgh Firefighters Operation Warm event on Saturday morning.

Senator Fontana visited the Pittsburgh Firefighters Operation Warm event on Saturday morning. Now in its 7th year, this initiative by the Firefighters raises funds to purchase winter coats which are then distributed to children throughout the region.

Senator Fontana spoke at an Oct. 23 press conference at Duquesne University as the school announced plans for a comprehensive renovation of the A.J. Palumbo Center.

Senator Fontana spoke at an Oct. 23 press conference at Duquesne University as the school announced plans for a comprehensive renovation of the A.J. Palumbo Center. The re-imagined facility will be named UPMC Cooper Fieldhouse in honor of men's basketball legend and NBA trailblazer Chuck Cooper, who captained Duquesne University's men's basketball team before going on to become the first African-American to be drafted into the NBA in 1950. Senator Fontana was proud to assist in securing a Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program (RACP) grant that will be used for the project.

Last week, Senator Fontana visited with students at Avonworth Middle School and listened to their presentations and offered feedback on a project they have undertaken on the upcoming election.

Last week, Senator Fontana visited with students at Avonworth Middle School and listened to their presentations and offered feedback on a project they have undertaken on the upcoming election. Senator Fontana also participated in a Town Hall Meeting last week at Montour High School with members of the Principal's Student Advisory Council, Student Council, seniors who are taking a Political Systems or American Politics course, and members of the school’s Gay Straight Alliance.

Offices Closed

All Senate offices will be closed next Tuesday, Nov. 6 for Election Day.  My offices will re-open as scheduled on Wednesday, Nov. 7.

Election Day Information

Vote PA Voter Registration For any questions related to voting, I encourage you to visit  This site has information on your rights as a voter, answers to frequently asked questions, and allows you to confirm your registration and polling place.  Below is additional information about the Nov. 6 General Election.  If you need any further assistance, or have any additional questions, please call one of my district offices and my staff will gladly assist you.

Deadline to Request Absentee Ballots

Any voter who needs an absentee ballot for the Nov. 6 General Election must complete and return the application to the Allegheny County Elections Division by 5 p.m. today.  The Elections Division is located in the County Office Building, 542 Forbes Avenue, Room 601 in downtown Pittsburgh.  You can download and print an absentee ballot application by clicking here or by visiting  You can also pick one up at any of my district offices.  For fastest results, you may visit the Elections Division office and complete an application in person.  If properly registered, you will be handed an absentee ballot on the spot.

Anyone voting by absentee ballot will be required to provide a PA Driver’s License number, PennDOT ID number, or last four digits of Social Security Number.  If you do not possess any of the aforementioned items, a copy of an acceptable ID must be provided with the application. 

Completed absentee ballots must be received by the Elections Division office by 5 p.m. this Friday, Nov 2.

Polling Place Locator

If you are a newly-registered voter, have recently moved or have not voted in a while, and are unsure where your polling place is located, you can visit the Polling Place Locator Page offered by the PA Department of State.  You will be asked to enter your county, municipality, house number and street name.  Once that information is entered, the site will inform you of your polling place and provide the address.  You will also be provided an opportunity to enter your name and birth date to determine if you are a registered voter and will also be able to view the ballot you will be presented with at your polling place.  If you are unable to find your polling place on this site, or if any of your information is listed incorrectly on the site, please contact the Allegheny County Elections Division office at 412-350-4500.

PLEASE NOTE – 33 polling places in Allegheny County have changed since the May Primary Election, including six within the 42nd Senatorial District.  Voters in districts that are affected have been notified by mail.  The following locations in the 42nd Senatorial District have changed:

Stowe Twp.
Stowe Twp.
New Location
Carnegie Borough Building, One Veterans Way
Carnegie Borough Building, One Veterans Way
Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh, 612 Smithfield Street
Riverview Park Visitor Center, 158 Riverview Drive
Ohioview Towers, 92 Pleasant Ridge Road
Rocky’s Restaurant, 1562 Island Avenue

How to Register Election Day Complaints

Any registered voter who wishes to file a complaint about alleged election law violations can do so by visiting and clicking on the “Election Complaints” tab.  The voter will be asked to enter their first and last name, address, county of residence, and date of birth to ensure they are a registered voter.  Once submitted, these complaint forms will be directed to the county election board for the county in which the voter making the complaint resides.  Written statements of complaint are available at all polling places and the Allegheny County Board of Elections.  You may also call 1-877-VOTES-PA (1-877-868-3772) to obtain a complaint statement.

Need a Ride?

To help voters get to the polls on Election Day, both Uber and Lyft announced they will be providing free rides to local polling places. 

On Election Day, a “Get to the Polls” button will appear on the Uber app.  Users can click on it to find their local polling place and book a free ride to vote, using a promo code.  Democracy Works and #VoteTogether are partnering with Uber on this initiative.

Lyft will also offer free and discounted rides on Election Day. and TurboVote will have codes for 50 percent off rides and Lyft will be providing free rides to voters in underserved communities, provided through partners Vote Latino, the Urban League and National Federation of the Blind.

Did You Know…

Did you know that since Pennsylvania implemented online voter registration in August 2015 more than 1 million Pennsylvanians have either filed new voter registrations or made changes to their existing registrations?

LIHEAP Opens Thursday

LIHEAP LIHEAP Starting Thursday, Nov. 1, the Pennsylvania Department of Human Services (DHS) 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, located at 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:

Household Size Income Limit
1 $18,210
2 $24,690
3 $31,170
4 $37,650
5 $44,130
6 $50,610
7 $57,090
8 $63,570
9 $70,050
10 $76,530

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.

Senior Center Grants

The Pennsylvania Department of Aging has announced a grant funding opportunity for Pennsylvania’s Senior Community Centers (SCCs) of $2 million to be awarded for the 2018-19 fiscal year. The grants are intended to provide funding to enhance Pennsylvania’s SCCs by increasing participation and programming, attract a new generation of older adults, and enable SCCs to provide a safe and healthy environment for participants.

Applications must be submitted no later than 5 p.m. on Nov. 30.  More information on this grant program including how to apply can be found by clicking here or visiting

Property Tax/Rent Rebate Program

Property TaxThe deadline to submit an application to the Pennsylvania Department of Revenue for the 2017 Property Tax/Rent Rebate Program is Dec. 31, 2018. Applications are available at my district offices, online at 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.

The program is funded by the Pennsylvania Lottery and revenue from slots gaming.

Fontana Fact

In 2018, it is expected that 175 million Americans will spend a record $9 billion on Halloween including roughly $2.6 billion on candy.

Offices of State Senator Wayne D. Fontana

Brookline District
932 Brookline Blvd.
Pittsburgh, PA 15226
Phone: 412-344-2551
Weekdays – 9 am – 5 pm
543 Main Capitol | Box 203042
Harrisburg, PA 17120
Phone: 717-787-5300
Fax: 717-772-5484
Weekdays – 8:30 am – 5 pm
Kennedy Township
Kenmawr Plaza
524 Pine Hollow Road
Kennedy Twp, PA 15136
Phone: 412-331-1208
Weekdays – 10 am – 4 pm
Beechview Satellite
1660 Broadway Avenue
Pittsburgh, PA 15216
By Appointment