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 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

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.