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.