Please see this important message from ARRL Atlantic Division Director Bob Famiglio K3RF:

This message is directed only to our ARRL Western & Eastern PA section members to alert you to a serious legal issue returning to the spotlight.  A new law amending the PA Vehicle Code, pending a vote for some years, has reappeared recently and passed before the PA House of Representatives.  A new distracted driving bill presents a serious problem for operating any radios which require a handheld device, whether HT or a microphone.  The law has exemptions for hands free devices so cell phones are safe with such common technology as a Bluetooth earbud mike or the ubiquitous speaker phones in cars today. Since the bill was amended again in the PA house, it is going back to the PA Senate for a re-vote in about or week or so.  The Senate passed the original bill some time ago.

I was involved in urging lawmakers to add an exemption for ham radio and helped add to our reasonable exemption language over 3 years ago. It survived until just before the latest vote which stripped out our exemption but left in exemptions for commercial drivers including truck drivers, bus drivers and public transportation.  Also, emergency vehicle operators may continue to use a radio or phone while driving only if actually being used by an emergency responder and only while in an emergency vehicle. And before some of you ask as you have, this does not describe any ham.  Any other non-exempt two-way radio user is prohibited from holding a microphone or HT while driving or even stopped at a light or stop sign. You must pull over to use your radio. Reporting an actual emergency with our radios is exempt as is use of a handheld phone while driving if reporting an emergency.

I do not believe these prohibitions were an intended consequence, though some believe hams are no better drivers that the public and should not have an exemption.  But all other FCC Part 90 radio users, utilities radios, volunteer EMS and firefighters, and GMRS Part 95 users are likewise effected.  Few of our radios presently have handsfree devices for PTT use, though some are emerging.  That will require more years in development however.

While it may take some time to address this, we have very little.  For now, I suggest you write to your PA state senator and copy your PA representative for your districts. You can find them online.  Suggest they delay the approval and get more input from the volunteer responders in the Emergency Services effected by this and also The National Association for Amateur Radio, our ARRL. Such subject matter experts can best help guide the committee to make a better and reasonable law which still protects the public from the distracted driving caused by using
interactive mobile devices while driving.  That is the evil they seek to regulate.  Not the two way radios we all use safely. More precise definitions of the different technology can solve the ambiguity.

Caution though, do not argue that the law is generally unreasonable or denigrate the motives of the proponents of the bill. We know they mean well.  We know they generally like hams and emergency responders.  Who among us has not seen distracted driving from texting or looking down at a cell device while driving?  I see it every day.

The issue is really well meaning legislators are not properly defining the technology they seek to regulate while driving.  Also, some in the past claimed that the law does not apply to ham radio as we are emergency responders of some sort.  That is a stretch - please avoid such arguments.  Even emergency responders responding to a 911 call in their personal vehicles (as I do several hundred time a year) are prohibited from using their public safety radio service HTs or mobile radios, even if attached to the vehicle, if it requires holding something to use the device.  That cannot really be intended, but many agree with my professional analysis of the effect of the imprecise language as passed.

Please search for SB 37 in the PA government website and see the latest marked-up bill.  It will take me some time to get a “clean” version of the marked-up bill posted somewhere, but I will announce where we can post it when my office staff cleans up the markups, strike-outs and underlining so you can see more easily what language is left. What was changed or stricken out is evident in the official posted markups online.  You will see our long-lasting exemption taken out.

Your emails and/or phone calls to YOUR Representatives and Senators in PA are effective. A well constructed personal email is likely the best bet. They get read by staff.  Each single response counts.  It will give legislators a pause to think and inquire further.  After all, this bill has been drifting around for some years.  A few more weeks delay is warranted.  I have spoken with many about this bill and its effect.  If you have a different opinion or any suggestion, please let me know. Time is short.

73, and I will see you on the radio.  But maybe not while mobile.       

Bob Famiglio, K3RF
Director, ARRL Atlantic Division

Here's a follow up message from Steve K3FZT on steps on how to find your legislator:

This is what I've sent to my State Senator and Representative. Use the link at Find your Legislator to find your state senator and legislator and their email and phone contact information. Follow-up phone calls are important.

Sample Email to send them:

Subject: SB37 will adversely affect [you will want to indicate your local ARES/RACES/Volunteer Fire or EMS organization]

Dear [Representative/Senator] __________:
I am a Federal Communications Commission licensed amateur__________ class radio operator call sign __________ and a __________ volunteer ham radio operator and a voter in your district.
Mobile radio use is a routine and essential component of my volunteer work which realistically includes much more practice than actual response to emergencies. Amateur radio operators have been and continue to be an important component of emergency response throughout the Commonwealth.
[Representative/Senator] ___________, please delay approval of SB37 and get more input from the volunteer responders in the Emergency Services affected by this: all other FCC Part 90 radio users, utility companies' radios, volunteer EMS and firefighters across the Commonwealth, and GMRS Part 95 users will likewise be affected. Few of their and our radios have hands free operating capability. 
The National Association for Amateur Radio, the American Radio Relay League and other subject matter experts could help guide the committee to make a better and reasonable law which still protects the public from the distracted driving caused by using gaming devices, cell phones and tablets used for interactive gaming while driving. That evil should be regulated, not the two-way radios amateurs and other emergency responders all use safely. More precise definitions of the different technologies can solve the ambiguity.

[Your Name Here]
[Your Address and Phone Number Here]
cc: _________________, Member District ___

Another Sample Email:

Thank you!