Budget Hearings Focus on Accountability
2/23/2018
Budget Hearings to Focus on Accountability

During this year’s hearings about the 2018-19 state budget proposal, my colleagues on the House Appropriations Committee and I are focusing on better accountability of tax dollars, private sector jobs and the opioid epidemic.

This week’s slate of hearings included appearances by the Independent Fiscal Office, Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education and the departments of Revenue, Transportation and Conservation and Natural Resources.

Next week’s hearings will feature the departments of Environmental Protection, Agriculture, Corrections, General Services, Health, Drug and Alcohol Programs, and Military and Veterans Affairs along with the Liquor Control Board and the Office of Attorney General.

The full hearing schedule is available here, as well as archived video of the hearings once completed. More information about the governor’s budget proposal is available here.
 
 
Online Learners Now Eligible for State Grants

A new law will soon allow college students who take more than half of their classes online to have permanent access to financial aid.

Act 5 of 2018, formerly House Bill 1653, expands a successful pilot program created in 2013 that permitted students who take more than 50 percent of their credits online from a college or university headquartered and located in the Commonwealth to receive state grants through the Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency (PHEAA).

During the 2014-15 grant award year, more than 5,900 students received grant awards, totaling $8.52 million because of the pilot program.

The new law will take effect with the 2018-19 academic year.

More information about college financial aid is available at pheaa.org.
 
 
Lesser Known Transportation Laws

As part of Highway Safety Law Awareness Week commemorated Feb. 18-25, PennDOT and the Pennsylvania State Police are reminding drivers about four lesser known traffic laws.

Drivers must yield the right of way to any totally or partially blind pedestrian carrying a visible white cane or accompanied by a guide dog. The driver of the vehicle shall take any precaution necessary, including bringing the vehicle to a stop, to avoid injuring or endangering the pedestrian. This is a summary offense and is punishable by a fine of not less than $50 nor more than $150.

Drivers are prohibited from wearing headphones while behind the wheel. This does not apply to the use of a headset in conjunction with a cell phone which provides sound through one ear and allows surrounding sounds to be heard with the other.

The Ride on Red law allows a driver to proceed through a red light if a driver believes the traffic light is not functioning properly. This includes when the light’s sensor does not detect the vehicle. In this case, drivers are instructed to stop in the same manner as a stop sign and can proceed when it is safe to do so.

Under another law, drivers cannot leave a vehicle unattended while the engine is running or while the key is in the ignition. The law, however, does not apply to private property such as private driveways.
 
 
Protecting Honest Hunters

A new law seeks to protect and encourage honest hunters by addressing situations in which hunters may erroneously harvest an animal and turn the animal into the Pennsylvania Game Commission.

Presently, a hunter who harvests a deer or turkey of the wrong sex or accidentally takes two can turn the animals into a wildlife conservation officer and receive a new tag, pay a small fine and suffer no license revocation. Act 3 of 2018, formerly House Bill 359, expands that protection to the other two big game animals, bear and elk.

The new law does not change any of the other penalties hunters face for illegal out-of-season kills, except for the elimination of license revocations in those instances where the hunter self-reports and surrenders the animal.