Pennsylvania Becomes 27th State with PRB-1 Law on Books
On Wednesday, October 8, Pennsylvania Governor Edward G. Rendell (D) signed into law a bill that guarantees radio amateurs the right to erect antenna support structures up to 65 feet without the need for a Special Use Permit. The bill passed in the House with a vote of 196-1; it passed in the Senate with a vote of 49-1. The new law is scheduled to go into effect December 8, 60 days after signing.
Senate Bill 884 (now Act 88), An Act amending Title 53 (Municipalities Generally) of the Pennsylvania Consolidated Statutes, Restricting Municipalities from Regulating Amateur Radio Service Communications, was first introduced on June 1, 2007 by Pennsylvania Senator Stewart J. Greenleaf (R) who represents portions of Bucks and Montgomery Counties. The bill requires local municipalities to "reasonably accommodate amateur radio service communications, and [to] impose only the minimum regulations necessary to accomplish the legitimate purpose of the municipality" and says that "[n]o ordinance, regulation, plan or any other action shall restrict amateur radio antenna height to less than 65 feet above ground level, [but a] municipality may impose necessary regulations to ensure the safety of amateur radio antenna structures, but must reasonably accommodate amateur service communications."
The driving force behind the bill's passage was George Brechmann, N3HBT, of Warminster. "We didn't have a PRB-1 law and I just got tired of people telling me it couldn't be done," he told the ARRL. "So I called up my senator's local office and told them what I wanted. They referred it to his Harrisburg office and a while later, I got a call from Senator Geeenleaf's executive assistant Eric Pauley wanting more information."
Brechmann said the bill was stuck in committee "for the longest time, with lots of back-and-forth. Fortunately, they were able to reach a compromise with the help of the League and its General Counsel Chris Imlay, W3KD. This act even encompasses the urban areas of Philadelphia and Pittsburgh." Brechmann, who has a 60 foot crank-up tower in his backyard, says he has no plans to get a taller antenna support structure.
Brechmann said he found out about the bill's passing in the most appropriate of ways -- on the radio. "I'm the trustee at the club station, K3DN, at our senior center; we have about 130 members there. I went over on Tuesday evening to unlock the doors and get the rigs going, when my wife Elaine, N3TMP, called me on the radio to tell me the bill had passed the House. Five minutes later, she called me again on the radio to tell me it had passed the Senate! And now the governor signed it as soon as it reached his desk."
Saying that getting this bill passed is his "little contribution to posterity," Brechmann said he is glad to be able to do something good for the amateur community "because they have been so very good to me. I'm blind, and Amateur Radio has been a very large part of my life." Brechmann stays active ragchewing on 15 meters "and 10 when it's open," as well as serving as Net Control and coordinating his township's public service events.
ARRL Eastern Pennsylvania Section Manager Eric Olena, WB3FPL, said he was "thrilled" with the bill's passage: "The Pennsylvania Legislature showed overwhelming support of Amateur Radio [by passing this bill]. This legislation was started by George and coordinated with Senator Greenleaf and Representative Kathy Watson (R). Pennsylvania hams made an outstanding effort contacting their senators and representatives. By seeking their support, they really helped with the success of this legislation. The effort by all hams throughout the country to foster Amateur Radio as an effective communications method in emergencies did much to highlight a valued reputation for Amateur Radio, and without a doubt, had an effect on these proceedings."