On Centre: Centre Region | State College extends soliciting hours to 9 p.m.

September 26, 2013 

State College Borough Council recently voted to extend the hours allowed for soliciting and canvassing, and Councilman Jim Rosenberger said he was just fine with that.

“I have Girl Scout cookies in mind, and they can come up until 9,” he said during a council meeting last week.

It was recommended that the council approve changing the end hour from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m., based on the state Supreme Court’s response to related cases. Members did so unanimously.

Borough solicitor Terry Williams said the court has overturned cases that attempted to limit soliciting hours to 5 p.m., 7 p.m. and dusk, because it determined doing so goes against the right to free speech.

“Nine o’clock, as selected, is arbitrary, but is designed to keep the borough out of litigation,” Williams said.

Williams said that if the time is limited to, say, 5 p.m., it hurts a religious organization or political party’s freedom of speech because people still may be at work.

“I always thought that freedom of speech applied to speech in the public forum and the town square, and my front door isn’t part of that,” said Councilman Peter Morris. “I also don’t understand how free speech is up to 9 p.m. and, after 9 p.m., the constitution changes.”

Williams said the theory is that, at some point, there’s a “reasonable expectation that no one will bother you at your home.” He said the court feels the rights of religious, political and other organizations should be protected.

CERT update

Centre Region Emergency Management Coordinator Shawn Kauffman and resident Stephen Mershon this week received support from the region’s officials on Community Emergency Response Team training.

CERT training teaches residents how to help themselves and their neighbors in an emergency — things like how to use a fire extinguisher and treat severe bleeding. It doesn’t aim to replace emergency responders, but to help people manage a disaster until they arrive.

Officials supported the idea, and Kauffman and Mershon hope, with a state grant, to fill six courses over the next eight months. That would train nearly 140 people. Mershon took the course in Blair County and now is trained to teach it.

“I think we will benefit from this immensely,” said College Township Chairman Dave Fryer. “All the support we can throw behind him, let’s do it.”

Halfmoon Township Supervisor Barb Spencer said Mershon could hold courses at the municipal buildings, encouraging residents to attend so neighbors are trained together.

“That’s the way to do it,” Mershon said. “To do it at a community level like this is a great idea.”

Jessica VanderKolk writes this weekly column featuring news from the Centre Region. Contact her at 235-3910. Follow her on Twitter @jVanReporter.

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