State Capitol Roundup
5/24/2013

House Approves Measure to Address Child Identity Theft

The House recently approved a bill aimed at combating the growing crime of child identity theft.  House Bill 714 would include children within a protected class of victims for which the offense of identity theft receives an enhanced grading.  Often, a child doesn’t know his or her identity has been stolen until many years after the fact, when he or she first applies for college assistance or a credit card.  This can lead to financial headaches and delayed enrollment in college until the situation can be resolved.  The Federal Trade Commission has recognized identity theft committed against children as a growing problem.  One study that found an estimated 142,000 instances of identity theft are perpetrated against children in the United States each year.  The bill now moves to the Senate for consideration.

House Children and Youth Committee Continues Work to Stop Child Abuse

Members of the House Children and Youth Committee recently held a public hearing on legislation that would more clearly define what constitutes child abuse in Pennsylvania and strengthen protections for children.  House Bill 726 proposes to lower the injury threshold for physical abuse, terming it “bodily injury” – the standard used for the crime of simple assault.  The bill also defines, and makes it easier to substantiate, cases of serious emotional abuse or neglect, sexual abuse or exploitation, or conduct that intentionally compromises the safety of a child.  House Bill 726 was introduced based on recommendations made by the Task Force on Child Protection to improve state laws to protect against child abuse.  The House Children and Youth Committee has made child protection one of the top priorities this session in the wake of the Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse scandal.

May is Lyme Disease Awareness Month

The House unanimously approved a resolution to recognize May as “Lyme Disease Awareness Month.”  Lyme disease is an infectious disease caused by at least three species of bacteria.  It is the most common tick-borne disease in the Northern Hemisphere.  Typical symptoms include fever, headache, fatigue, and a characteristic skin rash.  If left untreated, infection can spread to joints, the heart, and the nervous system.  In 2012, state health departments reported more than 22,000 confirmed cases of Lyme disease and nearly 7,600 probable cases to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.  The actual number is believed to be much higher than the yearly number of cases reported, due to different reporting criteria from state to state.  For more information on Lyme disease, visit www.cdc.gov/lyme.

Motorists Urged to Remember Safety When Traveling Memorial Day Weekend

In light of the increased traffic for the Memorial Day weekend, it is important for motorists to keep several important driver safety tips in mind.

  • Always wear a seat belt.  For drivers and passengers over the age of 18, failure to wear a seat belt in Pennsylvania is a secondary offense, meaning a driver can be cited for failing to wear a seat belt only if stopped for another traffic violation.  However, people under the age of 18 are required by law to wear seat belts, and children under the age of 8 must be properly restrained in a child safety seat or booster seat.
  • Maintain a safe following distance.  In ideal driving conditions, there should be a four-second following distance between vehicles.  Watch the rear bumper of the car ahead as it passes a road marking or sign, and count how long it takes to reach that same object.  If it’s less than four seconds, motorists should back off.  Be sure to allow more space in poor weather conditions.
  • Use turn signals.  According to state law, drivers must activate turn signals at least 100 feet before turning if driving at speeds less than 35 miles per hour.  At faster speeds, drivers must signal at least 300 feet before turning.  Failure to use a turn signal is a summary offense and carries a fine of $25.
  • Avoid aggressive driving.  Drivers encountering people who tailgate, speed, make unsafe lane changes or fail to yield to other traffic should follow these tips from PennDOT – get out of the way of the aggressive driver; stay relaxed, avoid eye contact and ignore rude gestures; and don’t block the passing lane if driving slower than most of the traffic.
Motorists should also remember that PennDOT driver service centers will be closed from Saturday, May 25, through Monday, May 27, for the Memorial Day holiday.  A variety of services, such as license and photo ID renewals, vehicle registration renewals, and changes of address, are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week at PennDOT’s Driver and Vehicle Services website at www.dmv.State.Pa.US.
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