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Senator Wayne D. Fontana

Changes to Voting in Pennsylvania

Act 77 of 2019, which was signed into law by the governor in October 2019, makes significant changes to voting in Pennsylvania, beginning with the upcoming April 28 Primary Election.

Voter Registration

voteThe first change involves voter registration.  Moving forward, voter registration applications must now be received by the county board of elections no later than 15 days before the election. Previously, counties would accept applications that were simply postmarked by the deadline (which was 30 days before the election) but that is no longer permitted. Applicants may either return their application in person, or it must be received by mail by the county board of elections by the deadline.

Absentee Ballots

The other significant changes involve early voting. In past elections, the only type of early voting in Pennsylvania was through an absentee ballot that could only be granted to voters who provided a reason why they could not get to their polling place on Election Day.

Beginning with the 2020 Primary Election, the deadline for civilian voted absentee ballots to be received by the county board of elections has been extended until 8 p.m. on Election Day. The deadline to apply for an absentee ballot has not changed. It remains the Tuesday prior to the election. Also, anyone with a permanent illness or disability can ask to be placed on a permanent absentee voter list. Absentee voters who request to be placed on the permanent absentee list no longer have to renew their physician’s certification of continued disability every four years or list it on each application. Each year the county must send an application to any voter on the permanent absentee list by the first Monday in February.

Mail-in Ballots

In an effort to allow more people to participate in some type of early voting, voters can now vote by mail without having to qualify for an absentee ballot. Voters can apply for the new mail-in ballots using the same deadlines used to apply for absentee ballots. Also, any voter can request to be placed on a permanent mail-in voter list. Voters on the permanent mail-in voter list will receive an application for a ballot by the first Monday in February. The deadline to return a voted mail-in ballot to the county board of elections is 8 p.m. on Election Day.

I have long advocated for early voting in Pennsylvania and while these changes are not exactly what I had proposed, the mail-in option and the changes made to absentee ballots, the permanent absentee list, and allowing for voter registration closer to Election Day, will ultimately make it easier for citizens to participate in our democracy.

Vote PAI encourage everyone to visit www.votespa.com to read more about the changes made to the Pennsylvania Election Code that I have outlined above. In the coming weeks, voters will be able to apply for absentee and mail-in ballots at www.votespa.com.

Keystone Historic Preservation Grant Program

Pennsylvania Historical & Museum Commission (PHMC) The Pennsylvania Historical & Museum Commission (PHMC) is accepting applications from non-profit organizations and local governments for the Keystone Historic Preservation Grant Program.

Grants support projects that identify, preserve, promote and protect historic and archaeological resources in Pennsylvania for both the benefit of the public and community revitalization. The grants receive funding from the Keystone Recreation, Park, and Conservation Fund. A total of $2.65 million has been set aside for this program, increased from recent years due to continued popularity of the program.

Two categories of grants – project and construction – are available for historic resources in Pennsylvania listed, or eligible for listing, in the National Register of Historic Places. Applicants may apply for only one type of grant.

Project grants are available for planning and development initiatives that enhance historic preservation in communities. Project grant applications may include municipal planning initiatives focusing on historic resources or may be used to meet building - or project - specific planning goals. Keystone Historic Preservation Project Grants are available between $5,000 and $25,000 and require a 50/50 cash match.

Construction grants are available for rehabilitation, preservation and restoration activities for historic resources that are publicly accessible and under non-profit or local government ownership. Keystone Historic Preservation Construction Grants are available between $5,000 and $100,000 and require a 50/50 cash match.

PHMC will host a webinar about the Keystone Grant program guidelines and application process tomorrow at 2 p.m.  Prospective applicants are invited to register online by clicking here or visiting www.phmc.pa.gov.

Applications are due March 2, 2020.  Grants will be awarded through a competitive selection process and are contingent on the availability of funds.

Please note that all PHMC grant applications are now submitted on the Commonwealth's Single Application for Assistance system. The PHMC website, www.phmc.pa.gov has eligibility information and grant guidelines.

The Pennsylvania Historical & Museum Commission is the official history agency of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.

Port Authority Public Meetings

Port AuthorityThe Port Authority of Allegheny County will be hosting a series of meetings over the next few months to discuss with residents in communities throughout Allegheny County upcoming projects and programs that will help shape the future of public transit in our region.

“Public Transit: A Community Discussion” will focus on a variety of topics ranging from Port Authority’s use of technology to fare policy to long-range planning.  Residents will be encouraged to provide input and ask questions.

The meetings will begin on Wednesday, Jan. 29 at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center. That day will feature three separate sessions. The first will run from 9 a.m. – noon.  The second from 1 – 4 p.m. and the final one that day will run from 5 – 8 p.m.

Meetings in February and March will be held at locations around Allegheny County including East Liberty, Millvale, Monroeville, McKeesport, Oakdale, Bethel Park, Springdale and Oakland.

For more information on these meetings please visit https://www.portauthority.org/GetTogether.

New Senior Citizen ConnectCards

Senior Citizen ConnectCardsThe Port Authority of Allegheny County continues to issue new Senior Citizen ConnectCards and my office can assist. The new cards will replace the current blue or yellow PA Senior Transit ID cards and will have a photo of the cardholder on the card. These new cards will enable the user to ride Port Authority and other public transit vehicles for free across the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.

Please note that effective January 1, 2020, seniors are no longer be able to use a Medicare ID card to ride free on Port Authority buses, inclines or light rail vehicles.  The Port Authority will continue to accept blue or yellow PA Senior Transit ID cards indefinitely, but customers are encouraged to get the new ConnectCard.

Both my Brookline and Kennedy Township offices are equipped to help seniors get their new cards. Simply visit either office and bring with you ONE valid document that shows proof-of-age.  This includes a driver’s license or state-issued photo ID card, birth certificate, PACE ID card, or passport to name a few. My staff will enter your information into Port Authority’s system and upload your photo and a copy of your proof-of-age document. 

Upon receiving the information from my office, the Port Authority will produce a new Senior Citizen ConnectCard and then mail the card to my office where you can return to pick up the card. New cards should take a couple weeks to arrive at my office from the time Port Authority receives the information. When you return to get your new card, please bring with you your current senior bus pass so we can exchange it for your new ConnectCard.

Anyone age 65 or over is eligible to receive this new card and ride Port Authority and other public transit vehicles for free.

Radon Safety

Radon: It's radioactive and it's real!January is National Radon Action Month and the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) is encouraging Pennsylvanians to start off the new year by conducting a simple test of their homes for radon, a naturally occurring radioactive gas that can cause cancer. Winter is a good time to test in the commonwealth because doors and windows are closed, providing more accurate results.

Radon occurs from the breakdown of uranium in the ground. It enters homes through cracks in the foundation or other openings and because of Pennsylvania’s geology, there are high radon levels in locations around the state, which can put residents at risk of exposure.

Testing is easy and inexpensive. A test cannister can be purchased at a hardware or home improvement store for about $25, or a state-certified testing company can be hired. Because radon levels are often highest in the basement, placing your test there is a good idea. Simply open the cannister, let it sit open for a few days, then close it up and mail it to the laboratory indicated on the label.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) identifies 4 picocuries of radon per liter of air as a safe level. If your home’s radon level is higher, EPA and the U.S. Surgeon General recommend having a radon reduction system, with a pipe and exhaust fan, professionally installed to vent the gas outside. The cost is generally in line with other home improvements, such as replacing a water heater. Having a radon reduction system installed makes the future sale of a home easier, too.

For a listing of state-certified testers, mitigators, and laboratories and for more information on radon, please click here or visit www.dep.pa.gov.

Did You Know…

Did you know that radon, the invisible, odorless, naturally occurring radioactive gas is the second leading cause of lung cancer?

Home Heating Oil & Propane Safety

HeatingThe Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) is reminding the more than 2.5 million Pennsylvania households that heat with oil or propane to take a commonsense approach to maintaining their fuel supply for a safe winter.

A heating oil or propane delivery can travel many miles to reach a residence or business. From a refinery, an oil tanker ship or pipeline transports it to a primary storage terminal. A truck takes it from the primary terminal to customers or to a secondary storage terminal, where another truck takes it on to customers.

A range of factors can affect the route. Fire, power outages, storm-related closures, equipment freeze-up or leaks, or flooding-related impacts can occur before the liquid fuel is put into a truck. Hazardous road conditions can slow truck travel. Snow and ice accumulation at the residence or business can make it difficult to access the tank.

Although these disruptions aren’t typical, they can and sometimes do occur, and the risk can increase in extreme weather, when there’s also increased demand.

Whether they’re on a delivery schedule or call as needed, Pennsylvanians should check their tank regularly and order fuel supply early to avoid emergencies and more costly fill-ups.

The same holds for backup generators filled by a delivery company. Owners should make sure their generator is full and has been serviced and load-tested in the last year.

Keeping a heating oil tank in safe condition is also important to protect health and safety, property, and the environment. Routine tank inspection, maintenance, and repair are key to preventing an issue. Inspection checklists and the steps owners should take if they experience a leak or spill are available at www.dep.pa.gov/homeheatingoil.  

Fontana Fact

One inch of snow will produce just less than 1/10 of an inch of water when melted. Ten inches of snow will melt down to only 1 inch of water.

Offices of State Senator Wayne D. Fontana

Brookline District
1039 Brookline Boulevard
Suite 2
Pittsburgh, PA 15226
Phone: 412-344-2551
Weekdays – 9 am – 5 pm
Harrisburg
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