Op-ed by Senator Jimmy Dillon
As a recent candidate for public office and a new member of the State Senate I’ve learned quality of life is still the driving force in local politics. The things that make a difference in the day-to-day lives of the people I serve are usually far less dramatic than the hot button topics in Harrisburg or Washington.
That’s why I’m glad we recently passed two new laws which I hope will improve the quality of life in Northeast Philly.
Pennsylvania enacted a new fireworks law in October of 2017 allowing Pennsylvanians to use consumer-grade fireworks for the first time. Quickly, the noise and safety consequences became apparent and police departments were flooded with firework-related calls. I’m especially concerned when these complaints come from combat veterans and others who struggle with PTSD because they feel the use of fireworks near their homes is nearly unrestricted.
Act 74 of 2022 sets a new limit by prohibiting the use of fireworks after 10:00 p.m. Those hours will be expanded around Memorial Day, Independence Day, Labor Day, and New Year’s Eve. The new law also enhances the safety standards for the appropriate use of consumer fireworks while increasing fines and penalties for both illegal use (up to $500 for a first offense) and illegal sales (up to $10,000 for a first offense). Finally, it dedicates revenue from existing firework taxes to multiple first responder programs. More work needs to be done to improve firework regulation, but I hope Act 74 will be a step in the right direction.
Everyone who knows me knows how passionate I am about youth sports. That’s why I was furious when I talked to a parent not long ago who told me about local soccer fields being ruined by all-terrain vehicles (ATVs) and dirt bikes. Safety concerns from the uneven ground mean these fields may not be useable for weeks or even months after the joy rides. Meanwhile, ordinary drivers are put at risk every time one of these vehicles recklessly invades our main roadways. This nonsense is why I voted for Act 92 of 2022. The new law addresses a long-standing frustration in our community by giving additional tools for police to combat ATVs and dirt bikes illegally operating in public.
Prior to this legislation, police had little recourse to deter bad behavior because misusing one of these vehicles was only considered a summary offense. Now, officers can confiscate an ATV or dirt bike when a person is illegally using these vehicles in the city. The law also establishes a tiered fine system to deter bad behavior. A first offense could result in a fine of up to $200, the costs of prosecution, and 10 days jail time.
I plan to continue to advocate for any commonsense reforms that will assist police officers, safeguard our streets, and ensure a good quality of life for Northeast Philly.