Townships Applaud Senate Passage of Right-to-Know Bill; Urge House Action
David Sanko, executive director of the Pennsylvania State Association of Township Supervisors, released the following statement on Sept. 24 in response to the Pennsylvania Senate’s unanimous passage of Senate Bill 444, which would amend the state’s Right-to-know Law:
“Townships across Pennsylvania applaud our state senators for their unanimous passage of Senate Bill 444. This bill would amend the commonwealth’s Right-to-Know Law to maintain government transparency while addressing provisions that proved costly for local governments without adding value for residents.
“We also applaud Sen. Dominic Pileggi, the bill’s prime sponsor, for his determination to address the unintended consequences that arose from this law. Now, we urge members of the House to pass this bill quickly and send it to the governor’s desk for a signature. The result will be a continued commitment to openness and transparency and increased efficiency in responding to open records requests.”
Right-to-Know Bill Passes Senate; Please Urge House Approval
PSATS would like to thank everyone who contacted their state senator to urge support for Senate Bill 444, which would amend Pennsylvania's Right-to-Know Law. SB 444 passed the Senate unanimously and now moves to the House. Please be sure to thank your senator for voting in favor of this legislation.
PSATS is now urging members to contact their representatives while they are in their home districts during the week of Sept. 29 and ask that SB 444 be brought before the House for consideration. It's imperative that House members join us in supporting this meaningful legislation to reform the Right-to-Know Law.
It is very important that House members are contacted while they are home. Only a few session days remain to get this bill adopted before the end of the legislative session.
SB 444 would comprehensively amend Pennsylvania's Right-to-Know Law to:
- allow additional fees to be charged for commercial requests (including staff time);
- clarify that bank accounts, credit cards, and similar sensitive information is confidential;
- clarify that certain tax forms (such as W-2s) are not public;
- reduce the prepayment threshold for record requests from the current $100 to $50;
- provide that volunteer emergency service provider records are not subject to disclosure under the law, except for financial records if the organization has a contract with a municipality; and
- limit the records that may be requested by inmates.
PSATS testified in support of SB 444 in May 2013 and continues to support this legislation as recently amended. The changes address several PSATS resolutions. Click here to read the testimony.
Please do not hesitate to contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or (717) 763-0930 with any questions.
Action Alert: Townships Urged to Oppose Clean Water Act Change
PSATS is asking township officials to urge the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and Army Corps of Engineers to withdraw their proposed change to the Clean Water Act that would dramatically impact land, water, and local budgets.
If adopted, this rule would tighten federal control over the nation’s waters and land, including private property, by redefining what constitutes “waters of the U.S.” This phrase currently covers “navigable waters” that flow between states, typically rivers, but under the new rulemaking, it would include streams, wetlands, ponds, and even temporary bodies of water created by heavy rains and flooding, such as ditches.
While the agencies’ intentions may be admirable, their approach is being roundly criticized as a “terrifying power grab.” Why? Because the rule change would give the federal government greater authority over public and private waters and land. Local officials worry, for instance, that the regulation would delay projects and create new bureaucratic hurdles.
PSATS opposes the rule change and is encouraging townships to support its efforts. Here’s what you can do:
Study up on the rule change. Read more on the proposed rule from the National Association of Towns and Townships. Townships can also go to any search engine and do a keyword search — use such phrases as “Waters of the U.S.” and “Clean Water Act expansion” — to find related information and news articles.
Participate in the EPA’s public comment period, which ends October 20. Comments may be emailed to email@example.com or mailed to Water Docket, Environmental Protection Agency, Mail Code 2822T, 1200 Pennsylvania Ave. NW, Washington, DC 20460, Attention: Docket ID No. EPA-HQ-2011-0880. (Note:Suggested talking points for PSATS member townships are available under "Member Resources" and then "Environmental Info." You will need to enter your member ID and password to view the information.)
- Register your opposition with Pennsylvania’s senators, Bob Casey and Pat Toomey, and your congressman. (You can access their contact information by entering your zip code here.)
September TVN Features Fall Legislative Preview, Election Reminder, and More
Don't miss the September edition of PSATS' Township Video News! Our latest monthly digital newsletter is now available for viewing and features:
details about Membersuite, a new service that enhances the security of information you provide to PSATS;
a preview of the fall legislative session; and
a message from PSATS Executive Director Dave Sanko, who encourages local leaders to do their homework before voting in November.
Please note that TVN features a “chapter” format, which allows you to watch the broadcast by segment or in its entirety..
Townships that want to provide feedback, suggestions for future episodes, or post a link to TVN on their own websites should contact Jill Ercolino, PSATS assistant director of communications and TVN’s producer, at firstname.lastname@example.org or (717) 763-0930.
New Census Data Details Computer Ownership, Internet Access in PA
New data from the U.S. Census Bureau shows the latest statistics on computer ownership and Internet access in Pennsylvania.
The Bureau's annual update of more than 40 demographic and socioeconomic characteristics of the population (the 2013 American Community Survey 1-Year Estimates) shows that 81.4 percent of Pennsylvania’s nearly 5 million households had a computer in 2013, while 73.7 percent had some form of internet access. Figures for Pennsylvania were slightly below that of the nation, which reported 83.8 percent with a computer and 74.4 percent with Internet access.
The new data also reveals that 77 percent of Pennsylvania households had a desktop or laptop computer in 2013, while nearly 6 in 10 households (58.7 percent) had a handheld computer device, such as a smartphone or tablet.
The 2013 ACS estimates are based on an annual, nationwide household sample of about 295,000 addresses per month, or nearly 3 percent of the population per year. The estimates aggregate the sample responses from Pennsylvania households collected from January 1, 2013, to December 31, 2013. Geographic areas for which data are available are based on total populations of 65,000 or more.
Click here to read more about the 2013 American Community Survey 1-Year Estimates for Pennsylvania.
This information was provided by the Pennsylvania State Data Center.
Free LTAP Webinar to Review FHWA Sign Requirements
Is your municipality compliant with the Federal Highway Administration's traffic sign retroreflectivity requirements?
The deadline for compliance was June 14, but you can still sign up for a free LTAP webinar on Monday, Oct. 20, to learn more about:
- the retroreflectivity requirements
- development of a compliance plan
- different methods for evaluating sign retroreflectivity
- sign inventory and management options
- free Pennsylvania LTAP sign inventory and management program
Choose a link below to register for either the morning or afternoon session:
FEMA Firefighter/EMS Grants Application Period to Open in October
Fire departments and emergency services organizations may apply for funding from the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s Assistance to Firefighters Grants beginning in October.
Eligible applicants include fire departments, nonaffiliated emergency medical services organizations, and state fire training academies.
Three types of grants are offered through the program. Applicants may file under multiple categories, which include:
• Operations and safety, including training, equipment, personal protective gear, wellness and fitness programs, and facility modification to enhance safety;
• Vehicle acquisition, with high priority given to nontransport, nonaffiliated EMS vehicles for community paramedic services; and
• Joint/regional projects, which are large-scale projects for any number of AFG-eligible organizations.
All AFG grantees are subject to cost share requirements based on population, and matching funds must be cash. Population categories and the required match are as follows:
• Populations under 20,000: 5 percent of the grant total;
• Populations between 20,000 and 1 million: 10 percent of the grant total; and
• Populations greater than 1 million: 15 percent of the grant total.
For more information, go to www.fema.gov/assistance-firefighters-grant or call the AFG help desk toll-free at (866) 274-0960.
Upcoming Workshops Help Townships Apply for Conservation, Recreation Funding
Is your township planning a recreation, conservation, or community enhancement project? Plan to attend an upcoming workshop that will help potential applicants of Community Conservation Partnership Program (C2P2) grants from the state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources. In partnership with the Pennsylvania Recreation and Park Society, DCNR is offering free grant workshops across the state in November. The grant program’s application period opens January 14, 2015, and closes April 16.
Participants of the grant workshops will receive guidance and updates on using the online application process and creating competitive applications. Attendees will also learn about eligible projects and the necessary documents for various project types and be able to interact with staff from the Bureau of Recreation and Conservation. Township officials, park and recreation board members, and others who are involved with recreation and conservation projects are encouraged to attend one of the sessions.
The workshop dates and locations are:
• Nov. 5 — Camp Hill Borough Building, Cumberland County
• Nov. 6 — Montgomery County Public Safety Training Campus (Fire Academy), Conshohocken
• Nov. 18 — Pine Township Recreation Center, Wexford, Allegheny County
• Nov. 19 — Quality Inn, Franklin, Venango County
• Nov. 20 — Luzerne County Community College (Educational Conference Center), Nanticoke
• Nov. 21 — Penn State Hotel and Conference Center, State College, Centre County
The workshops require preregistration. To register, go to www.apps.dcnr.state.pa.us/Calendar/list.asp?intDivisionID=52. For more information, townships may call Linda Manning at (717) 783-4736 or email email@example.com.
Don't Miss the Oct. 15 Deadline for PennDOT Winter Road Service Agreements
Townships that want to renew or establish winter road service agreements with the state Department of Transportation should notify their PennDOT district maintenance office. The state office should receive all agreements by October 15 to ensure that municipalities receive prompt payment.
Under these agreements, which can have terms of up to five years, PennDOT pays municipalities an annual lump sum to remove snow and ice from secondary B, C, D, and E state roads from October 15 to April 30. Townships are expected to provide the same amount of snow removal to state roads as their own.
PennDOT must approve all contracts before townships begin this winter maintenance. The department will automatically apply increases in the reimbursement rate to the township’s contract and, in the event of a harsh winter, may continue to make payments after the season.
To determine if PennDOT’s reimbursement rate will cover expenses, townships should look at the costs of purchasing salt, anti-skid materials, and other supplies and providing equipment maintenance, labor, and employee benefits.
Townships should also consider the legal ramifications of entering into such an agreement and review these contracts with their solicitor.
Fifteen percent of state roads are maintained through service agreements with townships and other municipalities.
For more information, call your PennDOT district maintenance office.