Redistricting Update
2/23/2018
Congressional Redistricting

 
Litigation concerning the current congressional district boundaries is ongoing. The case raises important issues, including the propriety of the current map used for electing members of Congress, separation of powers among the three co-equal branches of government, and our ability to fairly vote for our representatives in Washington. While these issues are sorted out by the courts, I have co-sponsored House Bill 722 which would amend the state Constitution and create an independent commission to draw maps for both federal and state elected officials following each census. The bill must pass in two consecutive sessions of the General Assembly and then be placed on the ballot for approval by the public. I am working with my colleagues to move the bill toward final passage by the House.
 
 
Budget Hearings to Focus on Accountability

During this year’s hearings about the 2018-19 state budget proposal, the House Appropriations Committee is 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 I voted for 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.
 
 
New 445 Area Code to Take Effect March 3

Beginning March 3, the new 445 area code may be assigned to new phone lines in Philadelphia, Bucks, Montgomery, Lehigh and Berks counties. The new area code is being placed into service because the remaining supply of numbers in the current 215/267 area codes is nearly exhausted.

Current customers will keep their existing 215 or 267 phone numbers, but starting March 3, residents or businesses seeking new telephone lines may be assigned numbers in the 445 area code.

According to the Public Utility Commission (PUC), the activation of this new area code will not change the way they dial calls or result in any changes to their service. Local calls under your current calling plan will remain local calls.

Callers across Southeastern Pennsylvania have been using 10-digit dialing for nearly 20 years – since the 267 overlay area code was established in conjunction with the 215 area code.