|Senator Fontana participated in a Town Hall meeting with students at Northgate High School on Friday, April 20. Senator Fontana and Representative Adam Ravenstahl answered more than 25 questions from students on a variety of topics and engaged in a meaningful dialogue during the afternoon assembly.
Last week, the Pennsylvania Senate unanimously passed Senate Bill 1090 (SB 1090) which would give the commonwealth one of the most comprehensive and toughest anti-hazing laws against the crime in the nation. What will be known as the “Timothy J. Piazza Anti-Hazing Law,” was drafted as a response to the death last February of the Penn State University Beta Theta Pi pledge. The sophomore engineering student suffered a series of falls at the fraternity house and subsequently died of severe head and abdominal injuries after a booze-fueled party where hazing took place. Eight fraternity members were initially charged with felony aggravated assault and misdemeanor involuntary manslaughter in Tim’s death, but a judge dismissed those charges. Cases are still pending for the dozens of other fraternity members who are facing charges related to Piazza’s death.
Currently, Pennsylvania’s hazing laws are inflexible and don’t give prosecutors the ability to tailor their cases to account for a variety of crimes, some of which are minor and others which could warrant felonies. Right now, hazing is graded as a third-degree misdemeanor, that carries one-year maximum prison term but hazing offenses alone rarely result in jail time for first-time offenders. This is the reason why prosecutors decided to charge involuntary manslaughter and aggravated assault.
Under SB 1090, the bill creates tiers for hazing:
- Grades hazing as a summary offense unless it results in, or may result in bodily injury;
- Hazing that injuries someone = misdemeanor carrying up to a year in jail and a $2,500 fine;
- Aggravated Hazing that results in severe injury or death = third degree felony with a potential sentence of up to seven years in prison and a $15,000 fine.
Furthermore, the legislation also establishes crimes of organizational and institutional hazing which means that fraternities and sororities would be exposed to possible felony charges if they are found to have knowingly and intentionally participate in hazing. If that is found, a court is permitted to confiscate the fraternity or sorority house where the events occurred and other assets.
Additionally, SB 1090 requires colleges, universities and high schools to adopt and post a written anti-hazing policy. Schools will be able to enforce such policies through such measures as imposing fines, withholding diplomas or transcripts as well as revoking recognition of social groups. The proposal also imposes new reporting requirements by school of all violations of anti-hazing laws which would be punishable by fines up to $15,000.
Lastly, a component of SB 1090 that could have potentially saved Mr. Piazza’s life is the “safe harbor” provision that would safeguard people from prosecution if the individual(s) seek help for someone uninvolved in a hazing incident and remained with the victim until law enforcement and medical assistance arrives. In the Penn State incident, no one called for help for nearly 12-hours after discovering Tim’s lifeless body.
Tim Piazza’s parents will never get the chance again to tell their son that they love him. It’s unfortunate that such horrific events had to take place for our laws to be updated. The House of Representatives and Governor Wolf have confirmed SB 1090 is slated for quick passage so that the commonwealth will join the few states to call the crime of hazing a felony and hold individuals who partake in this practice accountable and with serious consequences.
Did You Know…
Did you know that 82 percent of hazing deaths at colleges involve alcohol and that 55 percent of students who join clubs, teams or Greek life experience hazing?
State Grant Application Filing Deadline Approaching for Students
As the Vice Chair of the Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency (PHEAA) I want to remind students and families that the 2018-19 Pennsylvania State Grant application filing deadline is May 1. This deadline applies to all renewal applicants and first-time applicants who plan to enroll in colleges, universities or a college transfer program at 2-year public or private colleges (except community colleges and designated Pennsylvania Open Admission institutions).
To apply for a Pennsylvania State Grant, applicants must first complete the 2018-19 Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Applicants can access the FAFSA online at www.fafsa.gov. Completing the FAFSA online saves time and reduces application and processing errors.
In addition to completing the FAFSA, first-time applicants must also submit a completed Pennsylvania State Grant Form (SGF). First-time applicants who submit the FAFSA online will be automatically redirected to the SGF by following the onscreen prompts on the FAFSA confirmation page. First-time applicants who have already submitted their FAFSA but have not completed the SGF will receive an email directing them to PHEAA’s secure Account Access site for completion. Both applications are free to submit.
First-time State Grant applicants who plan to enroll in a community college, business, trade or technical school, a hospital school of nursing, a designated Pennsylvania Open Admission institution, or a non-transferable 2-year degree program at a community, 2-year or 4-year college have until August 1, 2018 to complete their Pennsylvania State Grant application.
2018-19 is also the first year that students enrolled in otherwise eligible Distance Education (DE) courses will be able to participate in the PA State Grant Program. Previously, state law prohibited DE students, as defined by taking more than 50 percent of their coursework online, from participating in the program. Recognizing that DE had become an effective and widely used method to receive a postsecondary education, especially in rural areas, the General Assembly amended the law to be more responsive to the needs of today’s students.
Students and families with questions about the FAFSA or the State Grant Program can call 1-800-692-7392 for personal assistance or visit www.pheaa.org.
Camp Lejeune Public Meetings
The federal Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) invites the public to hear from the scientists who conducted public health activities to understand the impact of exposure to contaminants in the drinking water at U.S. Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, North Carolina. Veterans Affairs representatives will also discuss VA health benefits available to Veterans and family members, and disability benefits for Veterans who were stationed or lived on the base for at least 30 days from August 1953 to December 1987.
A Community Assistance Panel will conduct a business meeting from 5 – 8 p.m. this Friday, April 27 with a public meeting scheduled for Saturday morning, April 28 from 9 a.m. – 1 p.m. Both meetings will be held at the Doubletree by Hilton Hotel, located at 500 Mansfield Avenue in Green Tree.
The contamination of drinking water at Camp Lejeune started in the early 1950’s and ended in 1985. ATSDR has been assessing the health risks from hazardous substances in drinking water at Camp Lejeune since the 1980’s. ATSDR has published several health studies that have linked exposures to the drinking water with a number of diseases and health conditions.
For additional information please click here or visit https://www.atsdr.cdc.gov/sites/lejeune/index.html.
Monthly Gaming Revenue Tops $300 Million
The Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board announced last week that combined gaming revenue, slot machines and table games, for the 12 Pennsylvania casinos exceeded $300 million for the first time. The previous high month for combined gaming revenue was March 2013, when total revenue was over $296.7 million.
Table games revenue in March came to just over $79.1 million which was a slight decrease from March 2017. When combined though with March slot machine revenue of more than $221 million, total gaming revenue was $300.5 million, a 3.8 percent increase over March 2017 combined gaming revenue.
Revenue from slot machines in March increased 5.4 percent increase from last March’s slot machine revenue of $209.9 million. The increase in slot machine revenue in March compared with March 2017 was the largest percentage jump in month over month slot machine gross revenue since February 2016.
The state’s gaming industry employs over 18,000 people and generates approximately $1.4 billion annually in tax revenue from both slot machines and table games. 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.
Bus Rapid Transit
Allegheny County, the City of Pittsburgh, Port Authority of Allegheny County, and the Urban Redevelopment Authority of Pittsburgh have proposed a Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) system that connects Downtown Pittsburgh with Uptown, Oakland, and several other communities.
The Port Authority has started holding public meetings to present information on the proposed BRT and gather feedback from the community. If you’re interested in learning more about BRT and/or attending any of the public meetings, you can click here or visit www.portauthority.org.
Cinco De Mayo Celebration
Las Palmas and the Latin American Cultural Union are hosting their annual Cinco De Mayo Festival in Beechview on Saturday, May 5. The event will take place from noon – 9 p.m. in the parking lot at Las Palmas, located at 1616 Broadway Avenue. The event benefits Casa San Jose and will feature inflatables for children, food vendors, artistic presentations, folk performances, raffles, and more!
Pennsylvania has a rich diversity of native, wild plant communities across public and private ownerships. There are over 3,000 native wild plant species in Pennsylvania. Of those, more than 500 are ranked as state-listed Rare, Threatened, or Endangered.
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