In a rare outdoor ceremony, Gov. Tom Wolf on Wednesday, June 28, signed and enacted Libre’s Law – the comprehensive overhaul of Pennsylvania’s animal protection laws. It’s a huge step forward. I was proud to support the effort and shepherd the bill through my committee, which culminated with Act 10 of 2017 – better known as Libre’s Law after the cute Boston terrier pup left for dead last summer but nursed back to health. As you can see, he is now a healthy and relaxed dog! I believe that how you treat animals is a strong indicator of how you treat other people. Appropriately, Libre joined the governor by adding his paw print to the new law, which takes effect in 60 days. The new law is literally a new lease on life for the animals that depend on us for care, comfort and compassion. Soon, it will be a felony to torture a pet, and anyone who severely abuses a horse or tethers a dog outside in extreme weather will face serious criminal charges. Those convicted of abusing or neglecting animals face forfeiture of their pets and animals. Another provision will offer limited civil immunity for veterinarians and humane society police officers who report suspected animal cruelty. Read more
HARRISBURG, June 13 – The threshold under which clubs can retain 100 percent of money raised through small games of chance would rise from $20,000 to $30,000 under an amendment from state Rep. Joseph Petrarca, D- Westmoreland/Armstrong/Indiana, that passed the House yesterday. In addition to raising that cap by an additional $10,000, Petrarca’s amendment to H.B. 864 would hike the trigger for mandating a 60-40 split of all small games of chance proceeds from $40,000 to $60,000. Essentially, Petrarca’s legislation is designed as a way for small clubs to keep more of the money they make under the Small Games of Chance Act, by raising the amount they can keep initially as well as the ceiling that mandates the start of the 60-40 split required by current law. “Just as other things are indexed to account for inflation or are periodically updated to take into account rising costs, I am proposing that we update this several-years-old law in a practical and beneficial way,” Petrarca said. “Several small clubs, fraternal organizations and veterans groups in my district have approached me asking for a solution to what they see as a problem, which my bill will seek to address by updating the numbers that exist in current law.” Read more
HARRISBURG, May 25 – State Rep. Joseph Petrarca, D-Westmoreland/Armstrong, has introduced legislation that would re-establish Pennsylvania as a leader in organ and tissue donation awareness and transplantation. Commonly referred to as the Donate Life PA Act , this legislation would create a comprehensive framework for public education on organ and tissue donations, clarify the methods for making such donations, streamline the process of working with law enforcement in deaths under investigation and update the law to reflect the best clinical practices to support donations for transplantation. “Every 18 hours, someone in Pennsylvania dies waiting for an organ that never comes. That's why this measure is so important. We will be able to help more than 8,000 patients awaiting life-saving organ transplants in the Commonwealth," Petrarca said. Pennsylvania's current law was crafted in 1994 by Petrarca's father, the late Rep. Joseph A. Petrarca Sr., himself an organ donation recipient. Furthermore, that legislation helped set a national standard for anatomical donations. Since its enactment, Pennsylvania hasn’t updated its organ and tissue donation laws, but nearly every other state has updated theirs. “We’re working to reinforce the priority of transplantation in the law and to encourage the cooperation of medical examiners and coroners with organ procurement organizations. This will help us facilitate donations by avoiding Read more
The Pennsylvania State Police is partnering with municipal police departments statewide during the national "Click it or Ticket" seat-belt enforcement mobilization through June 4. State and local police will provide increased seat-belt enforcement at state borders. According to state Transportation Department data, unrestrained fatalities decreased from 413 to 408 in 2016. The statewide number of crashes in which people were not wearing seat belts increased to 14,992, compared to 13,534 in 2015. State law requires drivers and passengers younger than 18 to wear a seat belt while riding in a vehicle. Pennsylvania's primary seat-belt law means that police can stop the vehicle to check seat-belt usage. Additionally, children younger than 2 must be secured in a rear-facing car seat, while children 2-4 must be in a child-safety seat and those between 4 and 8 must use a booster seat. Read more
VANDERGRIFT, May 12 - The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation has announced a number of grants to maintain and upgrade traffic signals along state and local highways. State Rep. Joseph Petrarca, D-Westmoreland/Armstrong/Indiana, reports that Washington Township will receive a state grant of $16,000 to help pay for maintenance of traffic signals. As part of the grant program, 20 percent of the project cost, or $4,000 will be the responsibility of the township. The Green Light-Go Municipal Signal Partnership Program was established under Act 89 of 2013. The grants may be used for traffic studies, removal of unneeded traffic signals, replacement of signals with LED lights and retiming signals to improve traffic flow and safety. "This grant will help the township ensure that the traffic signals work as needed," Petrarca said. "Maintenance now will hopefully prevent bigger expense down the road through system failure." The grant money will be used for updating the lights, pavement markings and equipment for the signals at the intersections of Pa. Rt. 66 and Beaver Run Road/North Washington Road, Pa. Rts. 380 and 780 and the blinking amber lights at the intersection of Pa. Rts. 66 and 356 and also Pa. Rts. 66 and 366. The grant announced was one of more than 90 being presented statewide, worth a total of $33 million. ### Read more
HARRISBURG, May 9 – State Rep. Joseph Petrarca, D-Westmoreland/Armstrong/Indiana, announced that the House Judiciary Committee approved his amendment to H.B.1008 , which would eliminate the mandatory three-day waiting period between when a couple applies for a marriage license and when it can be issued. The committee then voted to send the bill as amended to the full House. The bill would authorize former mayors that leave office for a higher office to maintain their authority to officiate marriages. Petrarca’s amendment adds the elimination of the marriage license waiting period to the scope of the bill. “The waiting period was established when most states, including Pennsylvania, required blood tests before issuing a marriage license,’” Petrarca said. “Pennsylvania dropped the blood test requirement 20 years ago, yet this delay still remains on the books. “In today’s society, with instantaneous processing via computers and without the blood testing requirement, there is no need to delay the process. “My amendment, now part of the bill, would allow the applicants to receive the marriage license upon application or via mail with no delay.” Pennsylvania is one of only 14 states that still require a mandatory waiting period of at least 24 hours between application and receipt of a wedding license. Three states, as well as the District of Columbia, also still require blood tests as part of the license Read more
Rep. Joseph Petrarca reports that the state Department of Community and Economic Development has approved a $200,000 Early Intervention Program grant for the Indiana County commissioners to map fiscal-management and economic strategies. Read more
Rep. Joseph Petrarca announced that Saint Vincent College has been awarded a $50,000 state environmental education grant to advance its Screen to Stream program exploring local watersheds. Read more
HARRISBURG, April 19 – Periodic flooding, sinkholes and erosion in Unity Township will be remedied by a $2.05 million state grant, state Rep. Joseph Petrarca, D- Westmoreland/Armstrong/Indiana, announced today. Petrarca said the Pennsylvania Infrastructure Investment Authority funding will enable installation of 6,800 feet of new storm sewer pipe, along with related inlets, end-walls, rip-rap and trench paving. “The township’s existing storm sewer system is deteriorated to the extent that it has collapsed in some areas and flooding occurs every one to two years,” Petrarca said. “Because of related erosion, sediment is being deposited into nearby streams, adversely affecting water quality. “This project represents a major upgrade to the Unity Township system, benefits the public health and creates 10 related construction jobs.” Petrarca said he was happy to work to get this funding and added that the project will benefit a service area of 8,470 people. Read more
HARRISBURG, April 11 – Students at two schools in the 55 th Legislative District will be eating healthier thanks to food service equipment grants announced today by state Rep. Joseph Petrarca, D-Westmoreland/Armstrong/Indiana. Petrarca said Latrobe Elementary School is receiving $15,213 for the purchase and installation of a combination oven, while Kiski Area East Primary School will get a $7,875.00 grant award for purchase and installation of a hot food serving counter. “Combined, this is more than $23,000 coming into two of our area’s schools to help provide healthier food for our children,” Petrarca said. “These grants will help make sure that they are getting good, nutritious and safer meals.” The grants come from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food and Nutrition Service, and are distributed through the state Department of Education using a competitive selection process. Priority is given to high-need schools where 50 percent or more of students are eligible for free or reduced-price meals. Petrarca said 44 Pennsylvania schools received a total $844,776 in 2016 funding under the program, which seeks to improve food safety, expand student access to food and help purchase equipment to prepare better offerings that meet updated meal patterns. Criteria also taken into account includes schools in underserved areas and the age of existing food service equipment, he said. Read more
HARRISBURG, April 6 – This week in the House Judiciary Committee, state Rep. Joseph Petrarca successfully enhanced a bill that would reform the statute of limitations regarding child sexual abuse cases, while also defeating an unfair provision. The committee, of which Petrarca serves as Democratic chairman, reviewed and reported out S.B. 261, which would abolish the criminal statute of limitations for future criminal prosecutions of child sexual abuse. For civil suits, it would extend the statute of limitations by 20 years, meaning that victims would have until age 50 to file a civil suit, rather than the current age of 30. Additionally, it would waive the sovereign immunity for public institutions, which would allow civil suits to be filed against them. Petrarca's amendment removed the cap on damages for governmental entities. "This amendment was important because it levels the playing field between individual offenders and public institutions," Petrarca said. "The amount of compensation victims receive should not be based on where they were abused." The amendment that Petrarca, and a bipartisan group of committee members, was able to defeat would have increased the standard to sue a public entity, thereby creating different standards for negligence between public and private entities. "To me, it just didn't make sense to make it more difficult for a victim to sue simply because his or her abuse happened at a public Read more
HARRISBURG, April 3 – State Rep. Joseph Petrarca, D-Westmoreland/Armstrong/Indiana, announced that the House Appropriations Committee approved his amendment to H.B.271 , which would include Arnold Palmer Regional Airport as well as the airport in State College to the list of airports that would be permitted to host video gaming areas. “The state is looking at ways to fill a multi-billion dollar budget hole,’” Petrarca said. “Expanding gaming through the addition of video terminals at the state’s largest airports is an ideal way to offer entertainment while receiving gaming revenues from those traveling through Pennsylvania. “Expanded gaming opportunities are often mentioned as a way to deal with the state budget shortfall, and I see this as a way to increase revenue without burdening our local residents with additional taxes while helping our local airport.” House Bill 271 would permit appropriate airport authorities to apply for an airport gaming certificate that would allow the airport to create an airport gaming zone available only to those ticketed travelers 21 or older who have already passed through the security checkpoint. “By placing the gaming zones behind the security checkpoint, this bill also protects our local organizations that conduct events such as small games of chance, bingo and raffles. This legislation recognizes the significant role that these local organizations Read more
HARRISBURG, March 29 – State Rep. Joseph Petrarca, D-Westmoreland/Armstrong/Indiana, announced today that Parks Township has been awarded a state grant for water improvement projects in its municipality. Parks Township will receive $105,918 to replace 1,250 linear feet of water line along Clarion Avenue. "This grant will help the township improve its efforts to provide public water to its residents," Petrarca said. "The existing water line on Clarion Avenue, installed more than 50 years ago, is unlined cast iron pipe and its corrosion over the years has reduced water flow. This project, which also will complete a distribution loop, and eliminate two dead ends, will improve water quality." The Small Water and Sewer grants are awarded by the Commonwealth Financing Authority to help with the construction, improvement, expansion, rehabilitation or repair of a water supply or sanitary sewer system. The CFA is an independent state agency that administers several funding programs designed to help grow Pennsylvania’s economy, create jobs, and improve cultural and recreational assets in communities statewide. Read more
HARRISBURG, March 29 – State Rep. Joseph Petrarca, D-Westmoreland/Armstrong/Indiana, announced today that Derry Borough has been awarded a state grant for water improvement projects in its municipality. Derry will receive a $223,890 Small Water and Sewer grant to make electrical upgrades to its water treatment plant. "This grant will help the borough improve its efforts to provide public water to the community," Petrarca said. "The electrical upgrades are necessary to ensure the plant is able to continue operation, as its electrical system, originally installed more than 50 years ago, has exceeded its lifespan." The Small Water and Sewer grants are awarded by the Commonwealth Financing Authority to help with the construction, improvement, expansion, rehabilitation or repair of a water supply or sanitary sewer system. The CFA is an independent state agency that administers several funding programs designed to help grow Pennsylvania’s economy, create jobs, and improve cultural and recreational assets in communities statewide. Read more
HARRISBURG, March 22 – State Rep. Joseph A. Petrarca, D-Westmoreland/Armstrong/Indiana, voted in favor of legislation that would increase the annual income limit for retired people to qualify for vehicle registration fee exemption. “Thousands more of Pennsylvania’s retired residents would qualify to pay only $10 per vehicle per year, instead of the usual $36. This bill is welcome news; the income limit has not been raised for almost 20 years,” Petrarca said. Under H.B. 188, which was approved 186-11, any person who is retired and receiving Social Security or other pension with a total annual income of up to $23,500 would qualify for the reduced vehicle registration fee. This would be an increase of more than $4,000 over the current income limit and make nearly additional 130,000 retirees eligible for the program. Petrarca said that during the last 15 years, senior citizens have received different adjustments to their retirement plans that have elevated their income over the eligibility limit for this program by a narrow margin, which makes this bill necessary. “We want to make sure that, after all those years of hard work, service and dedication, we provide the resources our senior citizens deserve,” Petrarca said. The bill (H.B. 188) has been sent to the Senate for consideration. Read more
Trout season in Pennsylvania officially begins at 8 a.m. April 15. But young anglers can fish for free on April 8 -- the Saturday before the opening day. Mentored Youth Fishing Days provide an opportunity for youth and their adult mentors to fish for trout. It is a great opportunity to share the joy of fishing with younger people to help keep the tradition alive in Pennsylvania. To participate, adult anglers must have a valid fishing license and trout/salmon permit and be accompanied by a youth. Youth anglers must obtain a free PFBC-issued permit or a voluntary youth fishing permit license. Both are available at www.GoneFishingPA.com or at any of the more than 900 licensing agents across the state. For others considering fishing, the state offers two "Fish-for-Free" days – Sunday, May 28 (Memorial Day weekend) and Tuesday, July 4 (4 th of July holiday). My three district offices also have copies available of the 2017 Pennsylvania trout stocking schedules, which also are available here or with the PFBC's "FishBoatPA" mobile app. This year’s stocking lists include Keystone Select Stocked Trout Waters, a program where 14 waters across the state will be stocked with a total of 4,500 large, 14- to 20-inch trout. Loyalhanna Creek is one. Check here to see the list of waters. Read more
Rep. Joseph Petrarca reminds residents that March is the last month to apply for heating assistance through LIHEAP, the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program. Read more
Rep. Joseph Petrarca announces that the Arnold Palmer Regional Airport in Latrobe was awarded an $805,000 state grant to improve safety aspects of the main apron ramp.
Rep. Rep. Joseph Petrarca announces that the Latrobe Center for Active Adults will receive a $76,717 state grant through revenues provided by the Pennsylvania Lottery.
Rep. Petrarca reports that his offices in Vandergrift, Derry and Latrobe have federal and state income tax forms and applications for the state Property Tax/Rent Rebate Program available for constituents. Read more
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