News for Constituents

New Law Updates CDL Licensing Requirements

The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) has announced that a recently enacted state law, Act 131 of 2020, extends the validity period of a commercial learners permit and imposes additional penalties on commercial drivers who engage in human trafficking.

The new statutory provisions extend the validity period of a commercial learner’s permit from 180 days to one year.  The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration recently changed regulations to allow a jurisdiction the choice of the 180-day commercial learner’s permit with an additional 180-day extension, or a one-year commercial learner’s permit.  

Other changes updated requirements and restrictions for commercial driver’s license holders, including reporting requirements for convictions and violations.  One of these changes disqualifies an individual from operating a commercial motor vehicle for life if he or she is convicted of using a commercial motor vehicle to commit certain forms of human trafficking.  

Additional information on licensing and vehicle registration can be found on PennDOT’s Driver and Vehicle Services page.

Awaiting the Emergence of Brood X Periodical Cicadas

This year, the 17 year cicadas, or Brood X, are emerging in Pennsylvania.  The emergence of the 17-year cicadas is the largest such emergence of the eight different broods known to reside in the state.  These fascinating insects have been harmlessly feeding on tree roots for the past 17 years.  While large and loud, these rare insects are not harmful.  They do not bite or carry diseases and will only be around for a few weeks.  Because of this, insecticides are not recommended to control cicadas as the risk outweighs the benefit.  Insecticides can harm pets or other wildlife that eat cicadas, plus they can run off into local waterways and pollute streams and rivers.

Periodical cicadas are a natural and vital component of our temperate forest ecosystem.  What’s more, they are one of the most interesting species to study because of their extremely unique life cycle, and researchers need your help to learn more about them.  Cicada Safari is a great opportunity to help research these bugs and map the 2021 emergence of the periodical cicada Brood X in the United States.

Pennsylvania Capitol Hunger Garden

The Capitol Hunger Garden recently opened for its 11th Season.  Lawmakers, along with hunger awareness advocates, gathered at a freshly tilled 1,000-square foot plot of ground next to the state Capitol on May 11, 2021 to mark the occasion with a ceremony.

The garden is intended to serve as a visual reminder of the problem of food insufficiency in communities across Pennsylvania.

Since its inception, the garden has annually produced between 700 and 800 pounds of vegetables that are donated to food banks, pantries and local soup kitchens.

The Capitol Hunger Garden continues to succeed largely due to the number of individuals, businesses and organizations which provide supplies, financial resources and volunteer hours.  In addition to volunteers, the Master Gardeners of Penn State Extension come to the garden to work side by side with the volunteers to help harvest the produce and provide a teaching tool to those of every age.  If you would like to volunteer at the Capitol Hunger Garden please complete this form and you will be contacted by Senator Vogel’s office or you can call the office at (717) 787-3076.

Virtual Farm Tour for Thousands of Children 

With children missing out on field trips due to COVID restrictions over the past year, the American Dairy Association brings to its website several free virtual farm tour experiences, as well as fun dairy facts, and the latest health information, and research on dairy nutrition. 

One of the virtual farm tours featured was the Talview Dairy farm outside of Lebanon, where more than 20,000 students from across the U.S. and Canada tuned in. 

The farm tours offer a one-of-a-kind experience to children that demonstrate how hard dairy farmers work every day to provide quality dairy products to their local communities. Their full-time commitment brings nutritious, delicious milk to your local store, school, or restaurant.

Pennsylvania Senior Food Box Program

The Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture and Pennsylvania Department of Aging recently announced steps to increase access to Pennsylvania’s Senior Food Box Program, a supplemental food program available free to lower income seniors.  The senior food boxes do not provide a complete diet, but rather are good sources of the nutrients typically lacking in the diets of older Americans.  Among the types of foods included in the food boxes are:  non-fat dry and shelf-stable fluid milk, juice, oats, ready-to-eat cereal, rice, pasta, dry beans, peanut butter, canned meat, poultry, or fish, and canned fruits and vegetables.

Giving the program a new name and removing proof of income requirements are among the updates to the program intended to encourage additional seniors to take advantage of the program.  More than 300,000 Pennsylvania seniors are eligible for the Senior Food Box Program, but only about 35,000 are enrolled to receive it this year.   

To apply, seniors may call 800-468-2433 to be directed to the regional food bank distributing the Senior Food Box in their county, or go online to fill out the Senior Food Box Application.

County Fairs Showcase Pennsylvania’s Agricultural Heritage 

Recently, Team Pennsylvania, in conjunction with the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture, released a report prepared by Econsult Solutions, Inc on the The Economic Impact of Agriculture in Pennsylvania.  The report found that agriculture and its related industries support over 593,000 Pennsylvania jobs and provide over $132 billion in direct and indirect output to the state’s economy.  

In addition to the annual Farm Show, county and community fairs have played a significant role in showcasing this important Pennsylvania industry through livestock and produce displays and judging, as well as through their support of youth programs such as 4-H and FFA. 

Unfortunately, the COVID pandemic caused most fairs to be cancelled during the 2020 season, which makes their expected return in 2021 especially exciting. 

The Pennsylvania State Association of County Fairs promotes the fairs and educates the public about them.  Each agricultural fair, association or society that belongs to the association has as its focal point the showcase of agriculture, horticulture, tourism and more.  The Association has a listing of the 2021 Fair dates on its website so fair supporters can mark their calendars for the return of their favorite fairs.

News for Constituents

Make Your Opinions Known Regarding the 2020 Election

There’s still time for you to share your 2020 election experiences with the Senate Special Committee on Election Integrity and Reform.  The bipartisan special committee was established in response to the many concerns expressed by voters about the 2020 election.  The committee invites Pennsylvania voters to take an election survey sharing their election experiences.  Surveys will be accepted through April 30.  The survey responses will be reviewed by the committee.  The committee has also held a series of public hearings to gather testimony and input from state and local election officials on the administration of the 2020 election.  All of the compiled information will be reviewed by the committee and used to produce a report with recommended changes for election reform to be presented to the General Assembly.

Among other topics, the Committee is focusing on the:

  • Security of the vote before, during and after Election Day.
  • Accuracy and security of the election process, particularly during the pre-canvassing and canvassing stages.
  • Uniformity of the election processes across the state.
  • Impact and role of the judiciary in the election process.
  • Impact and role of the Secretary of State in issuing interpretations, guidance and instructions about the election process and the conduct of the election as a whole.
  • Other election-related issues that may come before the Committee.

State Parks Activities and Summer Camps Return for the Season

The Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and National Resources (DCNR) has announced the return of outdoor programming at state parks and the expansion of occupancy limits within state park and state forest buildings effective Sunday, April 4.  This and other operational changes will follow Department of Health guidelines while broadening the enjoyment of state park and forest visitors.

At Pennsylvania state parks and forests, the following will be in effect as of Sunday, April 4:

  • Outdoor, in-person programs will resume with a limit of 40 participants per program.  Masks and social distancing are required;
  • Visitor center exhibit halls, interpretive areas and theaters will open with a 75 percent capacity visitation allowance. Masks and social distancing are required;
  • Volunteer workdays will resume with a limit of 40 participants per group.  Masks and social distancing are required;
  • Virtual and self-guided programs will continue to be offered;
  • Scheduled programs will be listed on DCNR’s Calendar of Events; and
  • Large, DCNR-sponsored events remain canceled until further notice.

According to the Department of Health, summer camps will be permitted to open for the summer 2021 season.  This year, organized camps can operate at up to 75 percent of the maximum capacity under the existing state health order.  Most of the recommendations are similar to last year and underscore following mitigation strategies and ensuring that whatever group size limitations are in place are also being followed at that time.  The Pennsylvania Department of Health has released Summer Recreation, Camps and Pools Frequently Asked Questions to provide guidance to summer camp operators.

National Distracted Driving Awareness Month

In an effort to recognize the dangers of and eliminate preventable deaths from distracted driving, April has been designated as Distracted Driving Awareness Month.

Nationwide, 3,142 people were killed in crashes involving distracted drivers in 2019.  Research by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) found that, during daylight hours, approximately 660,000 drivers are using cellphones while driving. According to the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT), in 2019, there were 13,776 crashes involving a distracted driver. Additionally, from 2015-2019, there were 325 fatalities in crashes involving a distracted driver or an average of 65 fatalities per year.

PennDOT is reminding drivers that Pennsylvania has a Texting-While-Driving ban.  To help avoid distractions while driving, PennDOT recommends that drivers follow these simple safety tips:

  • Store or turn off cell phones while driving. If you must make an emergency call, safely pull over to the side of the road.
  • If traveling alone, set your GPS, radio and temperature controls before beginning your trip.
  • If traveling with pets, be sure that they are properly restrained. Better yet, leave them at home.  Even a minor crash can result in a major injury to a pet if it is not properly restrained.
  • Never operate your vehicle and attend to a child at the same time.
  • If you drop an object while driving, leave it until you reach your destination or pull over safely to the side of the road before retrieving it.

Enhanced “Move Over” Law goes into Effect April 27

Lawmakers approved Senate Bill 1281 (Mastriano) in October to strengthen the state’s “Move Over” law to protect first responders, tow truck operators and other motorists near the scene of an emergency.  The legislation, which was signed into law as Act 105 of 2020, requires motorists approaching an emergency response area to merge into a lane further away, or to slow down to 20 miles per hour under the posted speed limit if they cannot safely merge.  The Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission reports 46 emergency responders were struck and killed in the U.S. in 2020, and 10 more have lost their lives so far in 2021.

The new law – which includes greater public awareness efforts and steeper penalties for violations – will go into effect on April 27.

The law will:

  • Impose two points for failure to merge into the lane not next to the emergency response area.
  • Set fines at $500 for first-time offenders, $1,000 for a second offense, and $2,000 for a third or subsequent offense.
  • Require a 90-day license suspension for a third or subsequent offense. The license suspension will also apply to accidents that seriously harm or kill another person.
  • Set additional fines of up to $10,000 for violators who injure or kill an emergency service responder or an individual in or near a disabled vehicle.
  • Double fines for several traffic violations when committed in an emergency response area when first responders are present.

How Bad will Ticks be this Spring and Summer in Pennsylvania? 

On the heels of a less than lethal winter and a rather wet start to spring, 2021 is shaping up as a bad year for ticks across Pennsylvania.  Many outdoor enthusiasts already are finding dozens of ticks on them even after brief periods in fields and forests.

The National Pest Management Association predicts, “A warm, wet spring followed by a mild, wet summer will contribute to an increase in tick and mosquito activity and may also result in increased termite activity.  The hot summer forecast will bring more ants inside buildings and much of this region will also see the emergence of Brood X cicadas.”

Pennsylvania is again the No. 1 worst state – seven years in a row – for newly diagnosed cases of Lyme disease,” noted Eric Huck, co-founder of PA Lyme Resource Network, in announcing a new initiative of the organization.

Through its DARE 2B Tick Aware program, and in partnership with GetOutdoorsPA, the organization will print 500 tick-awareness trail signs for organizations and individuals to place at trails across the state.

The basic message of the signs will be:

  • Defend yourself and property.
  • Avoid tick habitat.
  • Remember tick checks and showers.
  • Eliminate ticks correctly.

The signs are durable, made with laminated UV-protected ink to ensure they last at least three years.  They have a QR code folks can scan with their smartphones to be directed to www.palyme.org for tick removal information and what to do if bitten by a tick.

Help with Planting a Garden this Year

Last year during the COVID lockdown, many Pennsylvanians developed, or rediscovered, a love for gardening.  For those interested in continuing this pastime as warmer weather approaches, the Penn State Extension’s Master Gardener Program offers outreach to gardeners and both basic and advanced training programs.  Many counties across the Commonwealth have a master gardener program.  Check here to find out if your county has a program.  The Penn State Extension Program offers numerous beneficial programs and services to Pennsylvania’s residents. 

News for Constituents

Mentored Youth Trout Day 

For the upcoming 2021 trout season, the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission (PFBC) will operate under a consolidated statewide schedule for all counties.  Under this revised plan, a single Statewide Mentored Youth Trout Day will occur on Saturday, March 27, and a single Statewide Opening Day of trout season will take place on Saturday, April 3.  As a result, separate regional mentored youth and opening days will not occur.

Youth anglers must obtain a Mentored Youth Permit or a Voluntary Youth Fishing License from the Commission and be accompanied by a licensed adult angler to participate in the Mentored Youth Day.  The Mentored Youth Permit is free.  The Voluntary Youth License is $2.97 ($1 cost + $1 issuing agent fee + $0.97 PALS transaction fee).  The PFBC will honor all Voluntary Youth Fishing Licenses purchased in 2020 for mentored youth fishing opportunities during the 2021 season.

Buy a fishing license online, or in person by visiting a license issuing agent at more than 700 locations throughout Pennsylvania and neighboring states.

DCNR To Open Additional State Campsites for the First Day of Trout Season

The Department of Conservation and Natural Resources has announced that campsites will be available at an additional 16 state parks to accommodate fishing enthusiasts who want to stay overnight on April 2 for the statewide trout opener the following day.  A total of 34 parks throughout the state will provide camping at this time.  Anglers will have more than 2,300 campsites from which to choose for the season opener on April 3.

Information on the status of DCNR’s other facilities and resources is available on the agency’s website.

Spotted Lanternfly Alert

The Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture has recently added eight additional counties to the Spotted Lanternfly quarantine.  A county is placed under quarantine when evidence of a reproducing population of spotted lanternflies, such as an egg mass, is found by the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture.  A January 2020 Penn State study found the bug is costing the Pennsylvania economy about $50 million and eliminating nearly 500 jobs each year.

In the fight against the Spotted Lanternfly, Pennsylvania is “Lucky” to have a nose that can detect Spotted Lanternfly eggs.  Lucky, a female German Shepherd, went through 320 hours of training with the Penn Vet’s Working Dog Center, graduated, and joined the Department of Agriculture in November with her handler, Shane Phillips.  Lucky is the first dog in the entire nation to learn to detect the Spotted Lanternfly.

Sign up for the e-newsletter, The Spotted Lanternflyer, for the latest information and updates on fighting this harmful, invasive pest.

PH&MC Unveils New Markers

The Pennsylvania Historical & Museum Commission recently approved 23 New State Historical Markers.  The new markers, selected from 39 applications, will be added to the nearly 2,300 familiar blue signs with gold lettering along roads throughout Pennsylvania.

Since 1946, PHMC’s Historical Markers have chronicled the people, places and events that have affected the lives of Pennsylvanians over the centuries.  The signs feature subjects such as Native Americans and early settlers, government and politics, athletes, entertainers, artists, struggles for freedom and equality, factories and businesses, and a multitude of other noteworthy topics.

Nominations for Pennsylvania Historical Markers may be submitted by any individual or organization and are evaluated by a panel of independent experts from across the state and approved by the agency’s commissioners.

Women’s History Month

March is Women’s History Month, which is set aside to commemorate and encourage the study, observance and celebration of the vital role of women in American history.

National Women’s History Month traces its roots to March 8, 1857, when women from various New York City factories staged a protest over poor working conditions.  The first Women’s Day celebration in the United States was in 1909, also in New York City.  More than seven decades later, Congress, in 1981, established National Women’s History Week to be commemorated annually the second week of March.  In 1987, Congress expanded the week to a month, and every year since has passed a resolution (and the president has issued a proclamation) designating March Women’s History Month.

Information and resources for women can be found at the Pennsylvania Commission for Women, which was created by Executive Order and consists of volunteer members.  The Commission is responsible for advising the Governor on policies and legislation that impact women; supporting economic and civic opportunities for women; encouraging mentoring programs for girls and young women; identifying programs and opportunities for the benefit and advancement of women; and serving as a resource center for Pennsylvania women.

Game Commission’s Wildlife on Wifi

The Pennsylvania Game Commission’s Wildlife on WiFi (WoW), the virtual learning program launched in April 2020 to provide educational services during the COVID-19 stay-at-home orders and state school closures, has become a successful, permanent wildlife education program. 

WoW provides educators, students, parents and high-risk health communities, as well as general audiences, with home-based conservation and wildlife science education activities and lessons, virtual field trips and events, and social media games.  The program has registered more than 75,000 engagements including 1,625 Pennsylvania students and conservation-minded residents who have participated in a WoW virtual lesson.  Recently, the program was named the recipient of the 2021 Outstanding Environmental Education Program Award by the Pennsylvania Association of Environmental Educators.

The program continues the Commission’s popular live webcams including “From Under the Deck—Live Bear Cam 2021” from Monroe County and the “Bald Eagle Cam” from Hanover.

News for Constituents

Where’s My Plow

During the cold winter months when you are watching the snow fall and wondering, “Where’s My Plow”, the answer is now just a click away at 511PA.com

The Automated Vehicle Location system’s equipment reveals a plow’s location and whether or how much product is being spread.  Brine, salt, and anti-skid are used singly or in some combination depending on the temperature, precipitation type, and traffic volume. 

The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation’s winter operations use more than 2,248 trucks, plows, and salt spreaders across nearly 95,000 snow-lane miles.  Another 380 trucks are added to the crews as necessary to assist PennDOT in executing its winter storm tactics.  The Winter Services Guide offers specifics on your county’s snow removal operations.

2021 Virtual Farm Show

The Pennsylvania Farm Show was unlike any other this year, but the show must go on.  The 2021 Farm Show took place virtually, but with plenty of exhibits.  Kids can even participate and learn with the AgExplorers program.

Photographs from this year’s events are available online, and winning recipes from chefs across the Commonwealth can be found in an online cookbook.

FEMA Firefighting Grants Available 

FEMA provides several grants for firefighters and emergency responders each year. 

The Assistance to Firefighters Grants, which help firefighters and first responders obtain critically needed resources, are open for applications until February 12, 2021.  Additionally, the Fire Prevention and Safety Grants are open until February 26, 2021.  These grants can be used for projects including fire prevention education and training, fire code enforcement, fire investigation, and prevention efforts.

Future grant opportunities include the Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response (SAFER) program.  SAFER grants provide funding to fire departments and volunteer firefighter interest organizations to help with hiring, recruitment and retention.  The application period for these grants is from February 8 to March 12, 2021.

Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) Season Now Open

The state Department of Human Services is reminding Pennsylvanians that the 2020-2021 Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) season is still open.  LIHEAP helps low-income families pay heating bills via a cash grant.  The cash grant is a one-time payment sent directly to the utility company/fuel provider to be credited on a bill.  Grants range from $200 to $1,000 based on household size, income and fuel type.  Households in immediate danger of being without heat can also qualify for crisis grants. 

Visit the program’s website to learn more about the assistance, including the income requirements.  Applications are accepted online using COMPASS, by paper or in-person at your local county assistance office.

PA Personal Income Tax Return Filing Options

Once again, the Pennsylvania Department of Revenue is offering several options for filing your PA Personal Income Tax Return, including by traditional paper forms, myPATH, or PA e-file.

MyPATH is a free and secure way to file your return directly with the PA Department of Revenue.  PA e-file is a free option to file your federal and state taxes simultaneously.  Click here for a PA Personal Income Tax Guide and to download paper forms.

Cold Water Boating Safety 

Some 80 percent of all recreational boating fatalities occur when a boater fails to wear a life jacket, according to the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission (PFBC). 

During the winter and spring months, sudden cold-water immersion triggers cold water shock.  In water temperatures less than 70 degrees, involuntary gasping, hyperventilation, breathlessness, and reduced ability to control breathing and swimming occurs. 

Pennsylvania’s boating safety requirements include a mandatory life jacket usage requirement in effect from November 1 through April 30.  In addition, whether underway or at anchor, boaters on vessels less than 16 feet long, canoes, or kayaks are required to wear U.S. Coast Guard approved personal flotation devices. 

Consult the PA Boating Handbook (page 11) for an understanding of the legal requirements for year-round boating in PA. 

 

News for Constituents

New Interactive Health and Wellness Guide from Council on Aging 

The Pennsylvania Council on Aging (PCoA) has released an interactive guide to aid with the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic for older Pennsylvanians, available in both English and Spanish.  This guide, titled “SOLO: Strengthening Older Lives Online,” was produced by the Risk Reduction Committee of the PCoA.  Included in the guide are activities, videos, and resources promoting mental, spiritual, and physical fitness as well as short questionnaires to build health plans.

The Pennsylvania Department of Aging also provides COVID-19 information and resources for older Pennsylvanians and aiding with their care. 

PA Home Energy Assistance Program Open for Applications 

Pennsylvania’s 2020-21 Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) is accepting applications to help income eligible families, whether renting or owning a home, to pay their heating bills. 

Enter your fuel type and county into the LIHEAP Benefit Table to access benefit amount by household size.  You do not have to be on public assistance or have an unpaid heating bill to be eligible. 

Apply online, by paper application, or through your County Assistance Office between November 2, 2020 and April 9, 2021.

Avoid an Uninvited Holiday Dinner Guest

You survive the holiday dinner countdown.  You stuff and safely roast the turkey.  Dinner is served.  The collection of pies, cookies, and desserts thins out. 

Now it’s time to wrap it up, literally, before bacteria ascends upon your gathering.  Thriving at room temperature, bacteria can grow quickly at temperatures between 40*F and 140*F.  Make sure your refrigerator is 40* or below and your freezer should be 0*F or lower, then store the leftovers. 

Leftovers require cooling from 135*F to 70*F within 2 hours and to 41*F within an additional 4 hours, for a total of 6 hours of cooling time.  Bacteria can survive freezing.  Thawed food also requires cooking to the proper internal temperature to kill harmful bacteria.

Prevent Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

Wood-burning fireplaces and stoves, gas-fired fireplaces, appliances, grills, generators, and motor vehicles are all capable of releasing deadly carbon monoxide as a result of the incomplete burning of combustible materials, according to the Pennsylvania Office of State Fire Commissioner (PAOSFC). 

Symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning, often mistaken for the flu, include nausea, headaches, dizziness, disorientation, fatigue, and death, if undetected.  On average, carbon monoxide poisoning claimed the lives of 73 Pennsylvanians annually between 2009 and 2013. 

The PAOSFC recommends installing carbon monoxide detectors and changing the batteries in the fall and spring when resetting your clocks and replacing smoke alarm batteries. 

Flu Season Precautions

Pennsylvania experienced 129,912 cases of flu and 102 deaths from the flu during the 2019-20 flu season.  Due to the continued presence of COVID-19, the Pennsylvania Department of Health is urging all Pennsylvanians to protect themselves and their loved ones this flu season by getting vaccinated and taking specific preventive actions: 

  • Wash hands with soap and warm water or an alcohol-based hand-sanitizer.
  • Cover nose and mouth with a tissue when coughing or sneezing and throw away used tissues. Cough or sneeze into your upper sleeve, as recommended by the Centers for Disease Control. 
  • Keep hands away from your face, eyes, nose, and mouth.
  • Disinfect frequently-used surfaces like doorknobs, light switches, TV remotes, and countertops.
  • Avoid personal contact with those experiencing symptoms of the flu.
  • Remain at home until at least 24 hours after your fever subsides without the use of fever-reducing medicine.

Flu symptoms come on quickly and may include a fever, headache, fatigue, dry cough, sore throat, nasal congestion, and body aches.  Populations at particular risk include the very young, older Pennsylvanians, pregnant women, and those with chronic health conditions.

News for Constituents

Leaf Peeping to Return in Full Fall Color

Biking and hiking bring leaf peepers up close and personal with Pennsylvania’s blaze of fiery fall color, according the PA Department of Conservation and Natural Resources

Throughout the weeks of leaf peeping, leaves change color first in the northern portion of the state.  The Fall Foliage Report will tell you where the best changes and colors can be seen across Pennsylvania.

Paved, natural, or gravel, Pennsylvania’s urban trails wind their way through woods, across bridges, and along waterways, passing historical sites and manmade creations.  Those preferring to leaf peep from the comfort of their vehicle will find satisfying fall scenic driving tours, including the Northern Loop and the Southern Loop, to take in the beautiful colors from the ridges and valleys. 

Fall Gardening Guide

Don’t let the chill in the air and the fading summer flowers curtail your gardening just yet.  According to the Penn State Extension, trees, shrubs, and hardy perennials should be planted at least six weeks before the first frost allowing the root system to establish itself in the new soil. 

When cool fall temperatures arrive, planting hyacinth, narcissus, and tulip bulbs will brighten your landscape next spring.  Planting should occur during cool autumn temperatures but before the first hard frost. 

Warm-season vegetable growers are encouraged to improve soil quality by growing grain or legumes as cover crops during the off-season.  Cover crops help with erosion, soil compaction and organic soil enrichment. 

Filling in bare patches, over-seeding, or planting a new lawn are recommended for late summer to early fall to escape hot summer days. 

Autumn Driving Precautions

Autumn in Pennsylvania brings more than cooler temperatures and beautiful colors illuminating the landscape.  According to the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation, the sun’s angle shining in motorist’s eyes alters autumn driving. 

Combine general driving safety tips with PennDOT’s fall driving tips for a safe autumn: 

  • Increase following distance;
  • Let tailgaters pass;
  • Ensure operation of headlights, taillights, and turn signals;
  • Use headlights as sunlight fades;
  • Confirm the vehicle’s heating and wiper systems are working; and
  • Use tires with sufficient tread depth.

Motorists should anticipate morning dew collecting on road surfaces following cool nights and warmer days and the potential for an unexpected icy glaze covered by leaves.  Bears preparing to hibernate, deer breeding, and hunting season increase the potential for encountering wildlife during your drive. 

Simplify Emergency Planning with Checklists

Pennsylvanians watching the wrath of recent storms are encouraged to prepare for possible emergencies, according to the PA Emergency Management Agency

The Pennsylvania Emergency Preparedness Guide provides numerous checklists for simple preparations: 

  • Make a Family Emergency Plan – p. 6
  • Home Emergency Kit – p. 7 and 8
  • Children, Adults and those with Special Needs and Older Residents – p. 9 and 12-15, 21-23
  • Managing Important Documents – p. 9
  • Vehicle Emergency Kit – p. 10

Before the next emergency, let ReadyPA help you prepare to weather the storm during and after an emergency with a minimum of three days of supplies.  Extra precaution is encouraged with regard to medicine, with recommendations for at least a one-week supply.  

Department of Aging Provides Support to Caregivers

The Department of Aging provides both resources and support to caregivers.  The Caregiver Support Program eases the stresses of caregiving by focusing on the well-being of the caregiver and providing reimbursement for certain out-of-pocket costs.

The program provides several services including care management, benefits counseling, education and training.  Applicants must meet criteria to be eligible for these benefits.

This program is administered through your Area Agency on Aging. 

Weatherproofing for Winter Months Ahead

Early fall temperatures offer perfect conditions for weather-proofing your home, according to the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission

The heat loss due to a quarter-inch gap at the base of a three-foot wide exterior door is equal to the loss through a three-inch hole in the wall of your home.  Prepare Now to conserve energy and money later with the following resources: 

News for Constituents

Important for Older Adults to Participate in the US Census

The September 30 deadline to complete the 2020 Census is quickly approaching, and older adults are urged to participate to benefit their community.  Older adults can participate whether they live with family, receive in-home care, or reside in a long-term living facility.  The population count determines the federal support that aging Pennsylvanians receive through programs such as Medicaid, Medicare Part B, nutrition services and more.

While Census workers are currently visiting homes of citizens who have not yet completed the Census, it is also advised that older adults stay alert for potential scam artists.  Verify the workers identity by making sure they have a valid ID badge with their picture, a US Department of Commerce watermark and expiration date.  If you question a worker’s identity, call 1-844-330-2020 to speak to a Census Bureau representative.

Elk Cam Goes Live 

You can now experience the Pennsylvania elk bugling season without leaving your home as the PA Game Commission is once again livestreaming elk activity from its camera on State Game Lands 311 in Elk County.  Video and sound from the camera are being livestreamed at www.pgc.pa.gov.  Not only will viewers see elk, but turkey, deer and other wildlife as well.

The PA Game Commission’s webpage also contains information on Pennsylvania’s elk and provides a link to the Pennsylvania Great Outdoors website which includes useful information for anyone visiting elk country, including giving the elk space and not feeding the elk.

The elk country live stream is slated to run until the end of bugling season, sometime in mid-October.  The best time to see elk on the camera is late in the afternoon.

Cultural and Historical Support Grants Now Available for Museums and County Historical Societies

The PA Historical & Museum Commission (PHMC) is now accepting applications from qualified museums and official county historical societies for nearly $2 million in Cultural and Historical Support Grants.  This is the eighth year the state legislature has provided funding for the program.

Applicants must meet organizational eligibility requirements.  Awards are based on a calculation that uses the operating budget from the most recently completed fiscal year.

The goals of the Cultural and Historic Support Program are to strengthen the PA museum community; provide general operating support to museums and official county historical societies that are not supported by other state agency funding programs; and provide financial assistance as unrestricted operating support to address primary needs of museums.

Museums must be located in Pennsylvania with annual operating budgets exceeding $100,000 and at least one full-time staff person.  The maximum award for a museum is $65,000.  The awards for county historical societies range from $2,500 to $4,000.

All applications must be completed by Wednesday, October 14, 2020 through the Commonwealth’s Single Application for Assistance system.  Grants are expected to be approved at the December 2, 2020 PHMC meeting.

Become a Poll Worker in Pennsylvania!

September 1st was National Poll Worker Recruitment Day.  Established by the US Election Assistance Commission, National Poll Worker Recruitment Day’s goal is to encourage potential poll workers to sign up to Help America Vote in 2020.  Those interested in becoming a poll worker can find more information at www.votespa.com/getinvolved.

Poll workers must be 18 years old and registered to vote in the county in which they wish to serve as a poll worker.  Exceptions to the age requirement exist for high school students who are at least 17 years old who must meet additional requirements.  Poll workers receive training and are paid by their county.  Government officials and employees are not allowed to serve as poll workers.

Expirations for CDLs, Commercial Learner’s Permits and Hazardous Materials Endorsements Extended 

The PA Department of Transportation (PennDOT) announced expiration dates for commercial driver’s licenses (CDLs) and commercial learner’s permits will be extended for Pennsylvania residents through September 30, 2020.

The following products’ expiration dates will be extended:

  • Commercial learner’s permits scheduled to expire from March 16, 2020 through September 30, 2020;
  • Commercial driver’s licenses scheduled to expire from March 16, 2020 through September 30, 2020; and
  • Hazardous Materials Endorsements (HME) for individuals who are a Pennsylvania-licensed commercial driver’s license holder and who held a valid, unexpired HME with a determination of no security threat on or after March 6, 2020.

For a list of open driver’s license and photo license centers, the services provided and their hours of operation, visit www.dmv.pa.gov.

Constitution Week

September 17, 2020 marks the 233rd anniversary of the framing of the Constitution of the United States by the Constitutional Convention.  The Constitution of the United States adopted the principles upon which our Republic was established.

Each year, the President of the United States issues a proclamation designating September 17 through 23 as “Constitution Week”.  Senate Resolution 357 has been introduced to also recognize this week in Pennsylvania, and to urge all Pennsylvanians to reaffirm the ideals the Framers of the Constitution had in 1787 by vigilantly protecting the freedoms guaranteed to us through this guardian of our liberties.

News for Constituents

Senate Library Exhibit Honors Members Who Served Their Country

The Senate Library’s current exhibit – “We Remember: Service to the State and Nation” — shares stories of Senate Members and Senate Librarians who served during wartime.  The exhibit honors the legacy of these individuals who served both our Commonwealth and our Nation.  A similar exhibit debuted last year in conjunction with Memorial Day.  The exhibit was such a success, the Senate Library reprised it this year with new pieces added.

Previous exhibits include Spirit and Substance, which celebrated the 100 year anniversary of Violet Oakley finishing her Senate Chamber Murals, and Pennsylvania Senate: The Early Years, highlighting the first Legislative Journals of the Senate.

The Senate Library also hosts a virtual scavenger hunt so kids can explore the history of the institution as well.

Senate Majority Policy Committee Holds Meetings on Reopening Pennsylvania

The Senate Majority Policy Committee recently held a series of informational meetings on reopening Pennsylvania for business.  Each meeting focused on a region of the state including the Western, Northeastern, Southeastern, and Southcentral areas.

Each hearing included testimony from leaders in manufacturing, hospitality, health services, and other industries.

The Majority Policy Committee also recently held a hearing on the safe reopening of Pennsylvania’s schools.

Bitten, now what?

Every summer, outdoor enthusiasts are reminded to avoid situations and conditions conducive to tick and mosquito exposure.  Lyme Disease and West Nile Virus (WNV) may be lurking from those nearly inevitable bug bites, according to the Pennsylvania Department of Health.  Left untreated, both Lyme and WNV may lead to serious life-long health concerns including neurological conditions. 

Lyme Disease, caused by a bacteria, may begin with a bull’s eye rash, fever, chills, headache, fatigue, muscle and joint aches, and swollen lymph nodes.  Following a two- to four-week course of antibiotics prescribed by a physician, recovery usually occurs quickly.  Untreated Lyme may spread to joints, the heart, and the nervous system. 

West Nile Virus symptoms, which typically last a few days and are similar to the flu, may include a fever, headache, body aches, a rash, and swollen lymph nodes.  While less than one percent of those exposed to WNV will develop a severe illness, hospitalization for intravenous fluids, pain medication, and nursing care may be necessary.  Symptoms may last for weeks and neurological effects may be permanent and severe. 

Beware of Scams

Unscrupulous email, phone or door-to-door solicitation scammers employ a range of behaviors and tactics that appear normal upon first impression, according to the Pennsylvania Department of Banking and Securities (PA DBS). 

Scammers are currently exploiting Covid-19, especially through foreclosure bailouts, charitable donations and fraudulent health claims. 

Exercise caution and consider primary clues to fraudulent schemes such as: 

  • Advanced fees;
  • Pressure to invest quickly;
  • Emphasis on enticing friends, relatives, and colleagues;
  • Demanding and authoritative conduct;
  • Effort to establish a bond or provide you with a profile of similar interests and background;
  • Processing fees for a foreign lottery or sweepstakes; and
  • Request for personal information.

The top ten scams are presented individually in a helpful publication available from the Department of Banking and Securities, along with a list of precautions, and specific contacts for victims.  Pages 12-13 provide a valuable list of contacts to assist with the reporting recommendations for each scam.  For questions contact the PA DBS at 1-800-600-0007 or by fax at 1-717-724-6869. 

Identifying and Removing Poison Hemlock

Roadsides, fence rows, and the forest’s edge are increasingly lined with a deceivingly lovely but deadly white flower, frequently mistaken for the harmless wild carrot, according to the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR). 

Invasive Poison Hemlock develops small white flowers forming an umbrella shape and growing from hollow, purple-spotted stems possible of reaching six to eight feet in height.  Upon identification, DCNR recommends removal of the plant, including the entire root.  Mowing or cutting prior to flowering is effective in preventing the spread of over 30,000 seeds produced by each poison hemlock plant.  New growth should be treated with herbicides. 

Poison Hemlock is ranked as a severe threat to Pennsylvania’s native plants.  Because it is fatal for humans, pets, and livestock, anyone engaged in removal should wear protective clothing, including a long-sleeved shirt, long pants, gloves, socks, and shoes to prevent direct contact with the plant. 

After Flooding – Safety and Recovery

Disruption of your family’s routines following flooding can be eased through preparation and knowingly anticipating possible problems when you re-enter your property, according to the Pennsylvania Department of Health

The first step in flood recovery begins with making the necessary calls to power down all possible sources of fire, electrocution, or explosions to re-enter your home.  Four additional issues to address include: 

  • Cleanup – Twenty-four to forty-eight hours of home flooding causes mold growth.  One cup of household laundry bleach per one gallon of water kills surface mold. 
  • Immunizations – Increases in communicable diseases and open wounds may occur post-flooding.
  • Swiftly Flowing and Standing Flood Water – Risks range from drowning to diarrheal diseases to encounters with displaced animals, insects and reptiles. 
  • Chemical Hazards – Household, medical, and industrial chemicals can contaminate the environment.  

Follow debris removal guidelines to safely expedite cleanup.  Consult the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s checklists for post-disaster cleanup recommendations

News for Constituents

Senate Education Committee Reviews COVID-19 Impact on Higher Ed

The Senate Education Committee recently held a hearing on the impact of COVID-19 on higher education in Pennsylvania.  The hearing included testimony from Pennsylvania Department of Education Secretary Pedro Rivera, Deputy Secretary of Higher Education Noe Ortega, and PA State System of Higher Education Chancellor Dr. Dan Greenstein.  Leaders from Pennsylvania’s state-related universities, private schools, community colleges and technical institutions were also invited to testify.

The preliminary re-opening guidance provided by the Department of Education was among discussed topics.

Testimony given addressed concerns and suggestions for reopening, as well as the future of higher education, beyond the short-term impacts.

Summer Heat and Humidity Precautions

With the arrival of summer’s high temperatures, the Pennsylvania Department of Health is urging Pennsylvanians to exercise special safety precautions. 

When summer heat is combined with high humidity, the human body’s ability to cool itself through evaporation is impaired.  Heat stress becomes heat stroke as the body’s core temperature rises.  Within 10 to 15 minutes, a 98.6⁰ body temperature can increase to 106 degrees leading to permanent disability or death. 

To prevent symptoms of heat stroke including cramps, hallucinations, chills, headaches, confusion, dizziness, slurred speech, and hot, dry skin or profuse sweating, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention recommends staying cool, hydrated, and informed.

Bicycling in PA

As gyms shutdown during the coronavirus pandemic, many Pennsylvanians rediscovered the joys of bicycling throughout the state as a form of exercising.  As a result, the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation is reminding bike owners about important safety precautions and requirements.

When riding between sunset and sunrise, a bike must be equipped with a front lamp and rear and side reflectors that are visible from at least 500 feet.  A proper fitting helmet is required for children under twelve years of age and younger and highly recommended for all other riders.  The rear-view mirror may be helmet-mounted or attached to the bike’s handlebars. 

If your bike has not been used recently, PennDOT also recommends that a qualified mechanic assess your cranks, brakes, handlebars, and seat for comfort and safety. 

Before biking the trails, see PennDOT’s Bicycle Safety and Laws webpage to refresh your memory on bicycle laws detailed in the PA Bicycle Driver’s Manual.

Backyard Grilling Safety

Kicking off summer by mixing fun with an open flame requires an abundance of caution, according to the National Fire Protection Association.  Annually, grills, hibachis and barbeques are the source of 9,600 home fires, including 4,100 structure fires and 5,500 outside or unclassified fires. 

Emergency rooms across the country see some 16,600 patients for grilling injuries, including 1,600 children under the age of five suffering from burns.  Fifty-eight percent of grill fires occur from May through August. 

NFPA recommends grilling a minimum of ten feet from structures, including buildings, balconies, and combustible materials.  Fire pits should not be used within 25 feet of a structure or combustible material. 

Bald Eagle Live Camera

Pennsylvanians can once again observe bald eagles up close via the bald eagle live camera, which provides an up-close view of nesting bald eagles.

The Pennsylvania Game Commission provides this live cam free of charge, along with updates from the nest.  These updates chronicle the growth of the eagles from hatching to fully grown.

Bald Eagles, which once had only three nests in Pennsylvania, have been very successfully reintroduced into the ecosystem.

New State Aging Plan

The Pennsylvania Department of Aging has released the State Plan on Aging 2020-2024 Community & Stakeholder Survey.  The survey is open to adults of all ages until June 21 and takes 5-10 minutes to complete.

The State Plan on Aging provides a vision and direction for Pennsylvania’s network of aging services.  The current aging plan remains in effect until September 30, 2020.

 

News for Constituents – May 14, 2020

PA Senate Committees Exercise Oversight of COVID-19 Response

The Pennsylvania Senate standing committees have held numerous hearings recently on the Wolf Administration’s response to the COVID-19 health emergency.  A listing of these oversight hearings follows along with a link to watch:

  • May 13, 2020 – Joint hearing of the Senate Local Government and Aging and Youth Committees to hear from medical experts and county officials about how to protect older Pennsylvanians and others at the highest risk from COVID-19 as counties begin the process of reopening: https://www.pasenategop.com/blog/051320-2/
  • May 7, 2020 – Joint hearing of the Senate Aging and Youth and Health and Human Services Committees on the serious challenges facing Pennsylvania nursing homes during COVID-19: https://aging.pasenategop.com/050720/
  • May 6, 2020 – Senate Law and Justice Committee regarding issues with the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board, including the closure of the state’s Fine Wine & Spirits stores during COVID-19 without any official action by the PLCB or the Governor: https://law.pasenategop.com/050620/
  • May 5, 2020 – Joint hearing of the Senate Labor and Industry and Communications and Technology Committees to examine the problems with the Unemployment Compensation system that created significant delays in assistance and extreme frustrations from claimants: https://communications.pasenategop.com/050520/
  • April 23, 2020 – Joint hearing of the Senate Community, Economic & Recreational Development and Veterans Affairs and Emergency Preparedness Committees to address concerns raised about the Wolf Administration’s response to COVID-19: https://community.pasenategop.com/042320-2/

On April 30, 2020 the Senate Veterans Affairs and Emergency Preparedness Committee also held a meeting to adopt a motion to subpoena the records related to the process by which employers could request a waiver or exemption from the Governor’s business closure order of March 19, 2020:  https://veterans.pasenategop.com/043020-2/.

Keep informed about future hearings and other legislative actions by following the PA Senate GOP Facebook page and at pasenategop.com. 

Peace Officers Memorial Day and the History of the Pennsylvania State Police

In 1962, a proclamation designated May 15 as Peace Officers Memorial Day and the week it falls within as Police Week to pay special recognition to law enforcement officers who have lost their lives in the line of duty for the safety and protection of others.  It is an observance that pays tribute to the local, state, and federal peace officers who have died, or who have become disabled, in the line of duty.  This special recognition pays tribute to law enforcement officers who have made the ultimate sacrifice for our country and to voice appreciation for all those who currently serve on the front lines of the battle against crime.

The Pennsylvania State Police, which just celebrated its 115th anniversary, was created as an executive department of state government by legislation signed into law by Governor Samuel W. Pennypacker on May 2, 1905.  The Department became the first uniformed police organization of its kind in the United States and served as a model for other state police agencies throughout the nation.

The Pennsylvania State Police controlled mob violence, patrolled farm sections, protected wildlife and tracked down criminals, establishing a reputation for fairness, thoroughness and honesty.  A detailed history of the Pennsylvania State Police can be found at psp.gov.

Thank you to all of our past and present local, state and federal police officers!

Virtual Capitol Tours and Senate Library Exhibits

The Pennsylvania Capitol and PA Senate Library are both now on the web providing virtual scavenger hunts and video tours of the Capitol building proclaimed as one of the most beautiful in the nation!  Visit pacapitol.com to learn about the capitol, and the interactive welcome center to learn about the Pennsylvania legislature and state history.  Don’t forget to visit the Senate Library exhibitions to learn about the history of the Pennsylvania Senate, its chamber and its members – past and present.

Also, follow the PA Capitol Tours Facebook page, and the PA Senate Library Facebook page, to see all things celebrating our great Commonwealth and the institutional history of the Senate!

Report Poor Road Conditions and View Upcoming PennDOT Projects

The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) is directly responsible for approximately 40,000 roadway miles and 25,000 bridges in Pennsylvania.  The PA Transportation Projects page offers visitors the ability to learn about active construction projects that are underway beginning this year, or those being bid this year on the Construction Projects section.  The Act 89 Progress section indicates the status of project commitments made possible by the state’s transportation funding plan that was signed into law in 2013.  Information on bridges and their condition can be found using the Bridge Conditions map. 

Potholes and maintenance issues on state routes can be reported year-round to the PennDOT Customer Care Center.  Motorists can also express concern with construction projects, signs and signals, speed limits and personal property damage by calling 1-800-FIX-ROAD (1-800-349-7623).  Urgent roadway concerns outside of regular business hours can be reported directly to the appropriate PennDOT Regional Office.

PennDOT Driver and Vehicle Services During COVID-19

PennDOT has announced that expiration dates for driver’s licenses, identification cards and learner’s permits scheduled to expire from March 16, 2020 through May 31, 2020 will be extended through June 30, 2020 for Pennsylvania residents in response to statewide COVID-19 mitigation efforts.  Customers can complete transactions and access resources via the Driver and Vehicle Services website.  Services are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

PennDOT also announced it will use existing photos on file for customers renewing driver’s licenses and identification cards.  All customers renewing online or through the mail will receive a new product using the most recent photo that exists in PennDOT’s system.  No camera cards will be issued to these customers, and they will receive their new product by mail within 15 days.

Individuals who renewed on or before May 10, 2020 will receive a camera card in the mail and will need to visit a PennDOT Photo License Center to obtain an updated photo.  Certain Driver License and Photo License Centers in yellow phase counties have reopened offering limited services.

If a customer’s license is nearing expiration and they were planning to get a REAL ID at the time of renewal, they can renew their license or ID and get a standard, “NOT FOR REAL ID PURPOSES” product.  The issuance of REAL ID is currently suspended as a mitigation effort to prevent the spread of COVID-19.  The U.S. Department of Homeland Security has extended the REAL ID enforcement deadline until October 1, 2021.

Once REAL ID issuance has resumed, customers with a non-REAL ID product can upgrade to a REAL ID and their new product will include any time remaining on their current product, plus an additional four years – customers will not “lose” time they have already paid for, and after the initial REAL ID product expires, there is no additional fee (beyond regular renewal fees) to renew a REAL ID product.

Virtual Wild Encounters at the Pittsburgh Zoo!

The Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium may be closed for in-person visits, but you can still experience wild encounters virtually!  Check out the Zoo’s web cams, podcast and the additional fun and educational programming they have created for families at home, including:  the Penguin Web Cam; the Cheetah Web Cam; the One Wild Place Podcast – a behind the scenes and hands-on perspective from those working directly with wildlife and conservation; and more!