In This Issue

Close to Home

A roundup of things newsworthy
and noteworthy in your neck of the woods

September 9, 2011

75 Days of SummerIllinois – Driver's Ed Dollars to Increase

The cost to send your son or daughter to driver’s ed could be going up soon.  Why? A new state law allows school districts to charge up to $250 in fees for driver’s ed courses – a 500 percent increase from the $50 limit currently in place.

According to the bill Governor Pat Quinn signed into law this past July, districts are required to hold public hearings before they increase fees. They can also waive the fee for students who can’t afford it. 

Indiana – Securing Your Stuff (Online!)

If you live in Fort Wayne, you have a new high-tech way to keep stuff safe.  With a free service called ReportIt, you can enter unique information – such as serial numbers, product descriptions, receipts, photos and appraisal documents –   into a secure online database.  Fort Wayne pawnshops, secondhand stores, gold and jewelry buyers and scrap metal dealers are required by law to enter items they buy into the same database. So if any of the stuff you’ve registered is ever lost or stolen, police may be able to find it through the system. 

ReportIt is available at

New York – Cracking Down on Distracted Driving

75 Days of SummerWatch out! Using a handheld electronic device is now a primary traffic offense in the Empire State. This means that law enforcement can now stop drivers for things like texting, taking a photo on a cell phone or scrolling through an MP3 player. Governor Andrew Cuomo signed the bill into law to reduce the amount of accidents resulting from distracted driving. Tempted to sneak a text to your pal while behind the wheel?  Not only is it dangerous, it carries a $150 fine.

North Carolina – Keeping Clean

Residents pick up brooms, rakes and trash cans the first week of October for the North Carolina Big Sweep. Every county in the state gets involved in ridding the local land of litter and other waste. In its 25 years of environmental stewardship, more than 300,000 volunteers have cleaned up for the Big Sweep, rounding up more than 10 million pounds of trash across the state. The North Carolina Big Sweep is part of the much bigger International Coastal Cleanup. Sign up to become a volunteer today by registering at

Ohio – Making a Splash

Summer isn’t over just because it’s after Labor Day. Come to Marietta, Ohio, the weekend of Sept. 9 for the Ohio River Sternwheel Festival. ‘The Riverboat Town’ has preserved this unique part of its heritage since the festival started in 1976. More than 30 authentic sternwheel boats make an appearance for this weekend event that is always sure to make a splash.

Pennsylvania – Does Litter "Bug" You?

75 Days of SummerIf so, you’re in luck. The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) has approved a Litterbug Specialty License Plate to help preserve Pennsylvania’s natural resources. The Litterbug symbol is used across the state to bring attention to littering problems along state highways.

The cost of each plate is $45, with a portion going to the Pennsylvania Resources Council.  Interested in a Litterbug plate? Visit the Council Web site at


75 Days of SummerTennessee – Smoke is No Joke

Smoke alarms can save lives. That’s why Tennessee’s State Fire Marshal’s Office (SFMO) hands out as many as 8,000 every year. The SFMO also gives this advice when delivering the free smoke alarms: test them every month and change their batteries regularly. The SFMO hopes to increase the number of smoke alarms they can hand out to residents. They’ve applied for the Assistance to Firefighters Grant administered by FEMA, which would allow them to distribute as many as 15,000 smoke alarms next year.

Virginia – State Parks Celebrate Milestone

75 Days of SummerThis year, the magic number in Virginia is 75. The nation’s 10th state has more than 75 ways to celebrate being the first state to open an entire statewide park system on the same day on June 15, 1936.  Partake in the 75 Days of Summer contest or click a digital photograph taken in one of Virginia’s 35 state parks and submit it to for cabin and camping prizes. And if you’re feeling lucky, buy a Virginia State Parks “Virginia’s Riches” lottery scratch-off ticket for a chance to win – you guessed it – a $75,000 cash prize.

West Virginia – Mmm, Mmm, Apple Butter

Head to Berkeley Springs, W. Va., the second weekend of October for the long-celebrated Apple Butter Festival. Watch the tasty fall favorite simmer and bubble in copper kettles set up in the center of town square – even take a turn at stirring yourself.  Visitors can buy apple butter mixed with simple ingredients such as sugar, cinnamon and cloves, fresh from the kettle to the jar. Other highlights include a parade, live bluegrass music and contests for hog calling and best beard.

Wisconsin – Zeroing in on Safe Driving Habits

Every 15 minutes, someone in Wisconsin is killed or injured in an auto accident.

The Wisconsin Department of Transportation thinks “even one preventable death is one too many,” and have launched the Zero in Wisconsin campaign in support. The campaign teaches drivers how minor changes in their habits behind the wheel could ultimately save their lives. Keep a look out for “Zero in Wisconsin” messages in TV and radio commercials, as well as online and in print media.


More ▶