|Education, Human Services Focus of Final Budget Hearings
Making sure every dollar of state tax money is used to its maximum benefit, the House Appropriations Committee wrapped up its three-week series of budget hearings Thursday, with two full days of questions about the education and human services aspects of the governor’s proposal and accountability measures.
Monday’s hearing featured both K-12 and higher education, with main topics addressing school safety, state financial investment and career-technical education. Special attention was placed on the long-term future of the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education and its increasing expenses, tuition rates and contract costs.
Citing the governor’s veto of the Human Services Code last year, both the committee and the administration focused much of their discussion about ways in which the Department of Human Services can be more innovative to better serve the neediest of citizens and reduce costs.
The Appropriations Committee will take the testimony gathered from these hearings into negotiations for the 2018-19 budget. All of the hearings are available here.
PennDOT District 3 Travel Reminder
Did you know that drowsy driving can be just as dangerous as impaired driving? Being tired causes you to have a slower reaction time, affects your judgement and can impair your vision. Being awake for 24 consecutive hours impairs your driving as much as having a blood alcohol content (BAC) of .10 percent, higher than the legal limit.
The CDC lists these warning signs as indicators you are too tired to drive:
The best thing to do if you begin to feel tired while driving is to stop driving.
Yawning or blinking frequently.
Difficulty remembering the past few miles driven.
Missing your exit.
Drifting from your lane.
Hitting a rumble strip on the side of the road.
REAL ID Online Pre-Verification Now Available for Eligible Customers
The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) has opened an online application for REAL ID pre-verification for customers who are interested in obtaining a REAL ID and obtained their first driver’s license or photo ID card after September 2003.
PennDOT will begin sending postcards to eligible customers inviting them to visit PennDOT’s Driver and Vehicle Services website to request that PennDOT confirm their documents are on file. PennDOT customers without internet access may call PennDOT’s Customer Call Center at 717-412-5300 or visit a PennDOT Online Messenger for assistance with pre-verification.
Once a customer has completed the pre-verification application process, PennDOT staff will review the customer’s record and verify which documents are on file. The customer will receive follow-up communication from PennDOT regarding the status of their application. Customers are not pre-verified until they have completed the online pre-verification process and received confirmation from PennDOT that all documents are on file.
If they are, PennDOT will mark the customer’s record as “verified,” and after REAL ID products are available in spring 2019, the customer can opt into the REAL ID program online, pay the one-time $30 fee, plus their renewal fee (the REAL ID product will include any time left on the current license plus the period of renewal) and their REAL ID product will be sent through the mail, eliminating any need for this customer to visit a Driver License Center.
If PennDOT does not have all the customer’s documents on file, they will receive communication from PennDOT informing them that they will need to bring their REAL ID documentation into any PennDOT Driver’s License Center beginning in September 2018 for in-person pre-verification.
REAL ID is optional for Pennsylvania residents. A federally-accepted form of identification (whether it's the forthcoming Pennsylvania REAL ID driver's license or ID card, a U.S. Passport/Passport Card, a military ID, etc.) must be used as identification to board a commercial flight or visit a secure federal building on and after October 1, 2020.
Pennsylvania is under an enforcement extension from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) until October 10, 2018, which means that Pennsylvanians may use their current driver's license or ID card to board commercial aircraft or enter federal facilities that require ID until at least that date. Pennsylvania will continue to apply for extensions from DHS until becoming fully compliant with the REAL ID Act. PennDOT is committed to offering REAL ID products at the customer’s option in spring 2019.
More information about REAL ID in Pennsylvania, including frequently asked questions and information on documents required for REAL ID, can be found at penndot.gov/REALID.
Impact of Post-Traumatic Stress on First Responders
The impact of traumatic experiences on first responders and a resulting increase in suicide was the subject of a meeting of the House Veterans Affairs and Emergency Preparedness Committee this week.
A focus of the conversation was the stigma that prevents many from seeking or accepting help, especially from those without similar experiences, and the fear of sharing horrors that will only infect the other person without alleviating anything from the first person.
First responders are also concerned that trauma and stress on them could cause their employers to consider them incapable of doing their jobs, leaving them without access to insurance or workers compensation benefits, and unable to provide for their families.
A number of improvements are being considered, including a hotline staffed by police, firefighters, emergency service providers and their family members to give people the opportunity to talk anonymously with people who have experienced the same things.
Spring Ahead: Turn Clocks Ahead One Hour This Weekend
Daylight saving time will begin on Sunday, March 11, at 2 a.m., and residents are reminded to turn their clocks ahead one hour Saturday night.
This is also a good time to check and/or change batteries in both smoke detectors and carbon monoxide alarms. They should also be replaced every 10 years.
Daylight saving time will end on Nov. 4.
Road Maintenance Info Available Online
To make your travels easier, the weekly road maintenance schedule is available at the PennDOT Regional Office website here. For statewide information, visit 511pa.com.