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
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.