Senate Approves Scavello Bill Allowing Local Police Radar

Harrisburg – Senate voted today to approve legislation sponsored by Senator Mario Scavello (R-40) permitting municipal police in Pennsylvania to use radar for speed enforcement. The The bill was sent to the House of Representatives for consideration.

“Even though speeding is the leading contributor to fatal crashes and 30% of fatal speeding crashes occur on local roads, Pennsylvania remains the only state to not permit the local use of this safety technology,” said Scavello. “The use of radar should be viewed as a driver protection which provides the most accurate tool for the enforcement of speed limits. This technology is much more efficient and effective than the dated technology of the past.”

Senate Bill 419:

  • Prohibits convictions if the speed recorded is less than 10 miles per hour over the speed limit where the posted limit is less than 70 miles per hour.
  • Sets a revenue cap on the amount of money a municipality may keep from speeding tickets at no more than 10% of its municipal budget.
  • Requires a municipality to adopt an ordinance before allowing police to use radar.
  • Sets calibration standards for the use of radar guns.

““Here in the 40th Senate District, we’ve seen at least 15 pedestrian deaths over the past 20 years where speed was a factor, and just one is too many. This legislation will save lives.” Scavello said.

The legislation is supported by the Pennsylvania Chiefs of Police Association, Pennsylvania Municipal League, Pennsylvania State Association of Boroughs, Pennsylvania Association of Township Commissioners, Pennsylvania State Association of Township Supervisors and Pennsylvania State Mayors Association.

 

Contact: Christine Zubeck czubeck@pasen.gov (717) 787-6123    

Bipartisan, inter-branch task force announces new policy recommendations to improve juvenile justice

Recommendations highlight data-driven policies and practices to protect community safety and create better paths for youth and families

HARRISBURG – The inter-branch and bipartisan Pennsylvania Juvenile Justice Task Force on Tuesday released a comprehensive final report with policy recommendations that protect public safety, increase accountability, achieve savings for reinvestment, and improve outcomes for youth, families, and communities.

Pennsylvania Juvenile Justice Task Force – Final Report and Recommendations

Pennsylvania Juvenile Justice Task Force – Final Executive Summary

If adopted, these policy recommendations will safely reduce the population of young people in out-of-home facilities by 39% by 2026, freeing up nearly $81 million for reinvestment.

Co-chaired by Sen. Lisa Baker, Sen. Jay Costa, Rep. Tarah Toohil, and Rep. Mike Zabel, the task force was jointly established in 2019 by leaders from both parties and all three branches, including Governor Tom Wolf, Supreme Court Chief Justice Thomas Saylor, House Speaker Bryan Cutler, Senate President Pro Tempore Jake Corman, and Senate Minority Leader Costa. Leaders charged the task force with conducting an assessment of the juvenile justice system driven by data and stakeholder input and with developing recommendations to serve as the foundation for statutory, budgetary, and administrative changes for consideration during the 2021-2022 regular session of the General Assembly.

“We worked together to conduct an inclusive, inter-branch look at our system based in our own data and on the voices of stakeholders,” task force co-chair Sen. Lisa Baker said. “Our findings show we have an urgent opportunity to reinvest in communities across Pennsylvania. No matter where young people live, our system should be fair, aligned with what works best, and equipped with the tools to strengthen families and reduce recidivism.”

“This issue touches every corner of our Commonwealth,” Speaker of the House Bryan Cutler (R-Lancaster) said. “This findings in this report present us with the opportunity to ensure our juvenile justice system rehabilitates our youngest offenders to not only create a positive path for them, but also to strengthens families, protect communities and create long-term benefits for all Pennsylvanians.”

“Over the past 17 months, the task force has worked diligently to create these policy recommendations that will expand where our juvenile justice system has succeeded—and boldly transform the areas where we face challenges,” Governor Tom Wolf said. “We need to do better by our youth and communities, and that’s why this important work remains a top priority for all of us.”

“Through our Task Force’s collaborative work together, we have uncovered troubling data showing too many young people are removed from home on their first offense who aren’t assessed as likely to reoffend,  said Judge Kim Berkeley Clark, president judge of Allegheny County and chair of the Pennsylvania Juvenile Court Judges’ Commission. “The data also shows that children living in poverty and children of color are more likely to receive placement for their first offense. Our recommendations expand and reinvest in diversion and other efforts that are already succeeding in many counties to hold young people accountable at home in their own communities.”

In keeping with its charge from state leaders, the task force issued 35 recommendations to:

  • Strengthen due process and procedural safeguards
  • Focus costly out-of-home placement resources on young people who pose a threat to community safety, while more consistently diverting young people with low-level cases to community-based interventions
  • Reinvest cost savings from reduced reliance on out-of-home placement into expanding the continuum of nonresidential programs to divert kids from juvenile court and from placement; strengthening system oversight; and filling victim restitution funds, among other priorities
  • Prioritize restitution payments to victims and prevent unnecessary system involvement by eliminating the imposition of fines and most court fees and costs
  • Ensure that young people who have completed their obligations to the court are not held back from successful transition into adulthood by records of juvenile justice system involvement
  • Improve oversight to ensure that every young person placed in the custody of the Commonwealth is safe, treated fairly, and receiving a quality education
  • Narrow the criteria for trying young people as adults in criminal court
  • Increase system accountability and address inequities through enhanced data reporting to the public and wider representation on oversight bodies

The 30-member task force assessed the state’s juvenile justice system and reviewed data from court and state agencies and examined how current practices can better align with what research says works to improve outcomes for youth and families. The task force created avenues for public testimony through virtual meetings and written submissions, receiving input from more than 500 stakeholders.

The task force found that most youth in the juvenile justice system have little or no prior history of delinquency, have not committed a felony or a person offense, and do not score as high risk to reoffend—even though research shows most youth are not on a path toward adult crime and over-involvement in the system can increase their likelihood of reoffending. 59 percent of adjudicated youth sent to residential placement are removed from home for a misdemeanor, just 39 percent committed a person offense, and most had no prior adjudicated offenses. Out-of-home placement consumes the vast majority of taxpayer spending on delinquency services, and costs as much as $192,720 per youth per year. Outcomes for youth show large disparities by race and geography—even for similar youth behavior. The final report and recommendations, an executive summary, and other documents related to the Task Force’s work are available on its website.

The task force’s efforts build upon Pennsylvania’s past efforts to improve its juvenile justice system, such as the Pennsylvania Juvenile Justice System Enhancement Strategy and legislation sponsored by Sen. Baker following the recommendations of the Interbranch Commission on Juvenile Justice.

“While today marks the end of a long and comprehensive process to present this report about the Pennsylvania Juvenile Justice system, what’s working well, and what we need to improve—it is really just the beginning,” said task force co-chair Sen. Costa. “It is now time for my fellow co-chairs and all my colleagues in the General Assembly to pick up the baton and enact these recommendations.”

“Thank you to all task force members, and to the hundreds of stakeholders across the Commonwealth who reached out, shared their experiences, and provided input to help us land on the best and most important changes to Pennsylvania’s juvenile justice system,” said task force co-chair Rep. Mike Zabel. “I am proud of the bi-partisan, data-driven process we helped lead and look forward to moving forward on these recommendations to create a system that works better for kids and families.”

The Pew Charitable Trusts and the Crime and Justice Institute provided technical assistance to the Pennsylvania Juvenile Justice Task Force throughout the entire process at the invitation of state leadership.

CONTACT: Jennifer Wilson, jwilson@pasen.gov

Senate Approves Regan Bill Supporting Law Enforcement Personnel

HARRISBURG – The Senate today unanimously approved legislation that would extend the Pennsylvania Heart and Lung Act to several law enforcement entities not currently included in the law, according to Senator Mike Regan (R-Cumberland/York), prime sponsor of the bill and Chairman of the Senate Law and Justice Committee.

The Pennsylvania Heart and Lung Act ensures that law enforcement officers who are injured on the job are paid their full salary and have their medical expenses paid while they recover.

“These men and women who protect their communities and our Commonwealth put their lives on the line everyday just as other law enforcement officers do for us,” said Regan. “Therefore, they are as deserving of disability benefits when injured on the job and are unable to work.” 

The law enforcement officers added under Senate Bill 503 include:

  • Department of Military & Veterans Affairs Fort Indiantown Gap Police
  • Department of Conservation and Natural Resources Park Rangers, Ranger Supervisors, Ranger Operation Specialists, Ranger Trainees, and State Park Officers
  • Department of Corrections’ Bureau of Investigations and Intelligence Commissioned Police Offices
  • Office of Inspector General Investigative Staff
  • Allegheny County Port Authority and Housing Authority Police

Additionally, the bill includes opt-in provisions for counties to provide benefits to corrections and probation officers and for state-owned, -related, and -aided universities, as well as community colleges, to provide coverage to their campus police.  The same option would be provided to other housing and transit authorities for their respective police officers.

“As former law enforcement myself, it is my honor to be the one to lead this effort to expand the Heart and Lung Act as a way to thank and recognize the sacrifices of those who have committed themselves to a dangerous line of work to serve and protect, despite the possibility of serious injury,” stated Regan.

The measure now goes to the House of Representatives for consideration.

Senator Regan’s remarks on SB 503 from Senate Appropriations Committee. The Senator submitted remarks for the record on final passage.

 

CONTACT:    Bruce McLanahan, 717-787-8524

Legislation to Prevent Dependent Care Sexual Assault Passed by Senate Judiciary Committee

(HARRISBURG) – The Senate Judiciary Committee, today advanced legislation to expand institutional sexual assault to include assaults by caregivers on care dependent individuals, thereby eliminating the gap that permits perpetrators to falsely claim that the victim consented, according to Senator Lisa Baker (R-20) and Senator Scott Martin (R-13), who introduced the legislation.

Senate Bill 704 responds to the tragic reality that those who are care dependent can be targeted for sexual abuse by merciless caretakers.  Holding those who prey on this vulnerable population accountable is especially difficult under existing law.  These victims can face the same types of barriers to reporting that all sexual assault survivors face – fear, shame, confusion, and coping with the impacts of trauma. However, they also face unique challenges to reporting sexual abuse, due to the circumstances that make them dependent upon others, including physical or cognitive disabilities, and mental and physical health struggles. 

“Across Pennsylvania’s legal landscape, we must constantly endeavor to remove barriers to reporting sexual assault and to add the necessary balance to bring about investigation and prosecution of these horrid crimes,” Senator Baker said.  “Some of our most vulnerable citizens – those in dependency caregiving circumstances – are least protected under existing law. People in various positions of responsibility are frustrated because the insufficiency of state law does not allow them to effectively protect the individuals in their care.  That frustration is shared by law enforcement and judicial officers who all too often, watch cases fall apart because of the incapacity of the victims.”

“This bill takes an important step toward protecting those who rely on others by including in Pennsylvania’s institutional sexual assault statute, those facilities and services where seniors and adults receive care,” Senator Martin said.  “Unfortunately, sexual assault plays out in many different ways and individuals with cognitive and/or physical disabilities are at a higher risk for abuse, including sexual assault. Closing this loophole protects our seniors and other care-dependent adults.”

Currently in Pennsylvania, institutional sexual assault applies in settings such as prisons and schools, and also pertains to law enforcement.  It is premised on the fact that consensual sexual acts are not possible in these situations because when someone is in a position of power true consent cannot really occur.  The same power disparity in relationships exists between caretakers and the care dependent individuals for whom they are obligated and trusted to look after. 

Senate Bill 704 now advances to the full Senate for consideration.

MEDIA CONTACTS:

Kate Flessner (Senator Baker)  kflessner@pasen.gov (717) 787-7428

Terry Trego (Senator Martin) ttrego@pasen.gov (717) 787-6535

Senator Mensch and Senator Santarsiero’s Upskirt Legislation Passes Senate

 

HARRISBURG – Legislation sponsored by Senator Bob Mensch (R-24) and Senator Santarsiero (D-10) advanced out of the Senate today (May 24). This legislation will more substantially criminalize the act of “upskirting” in Pennsylvania.

In January of 2020, a former math teacher and soccer coach at Palisades High School in Bucks County was found to be taking ‘upskirt’ photos of students and then sharing them online.

“The bill was made necessary by the unspeakable actions by a former teacher in my district. As a result of this despicable act, the teacher was charged with invasion of privacy and indecent exposure, which is certainly the least of what he deserved,” Mensch said. “Specifically, our legislation will make this offense a third-degree felony for a first offense and a second-degree felony for subsequent offenses of invasion of privacy of a minor when committed by a person of authority.”

“We send our kids to school with an expectation that they will learn in a safe environment, and we have to do everything we can do to provide that safe environment,” said Senator Santarsiero. “This legislation, to strengthen the penalties where an adult takes upskirt photos of a minor, will help do that. I want to thank my colleague, Senator Mensch for working with me on this legislation in the Senate, and Representative Staats for sponsoring the House bill.”

With this legislation, we hope to send a strong message that invasions of privacy like this that do so much irreparable harm to our children will not be tolerated and carry with them serious penalties and consequences.

You can watch Senator Mensch’s floor remarks here.

You can watch Senator Santarsiero’s floor remarks here.

The House companion bill, House Bill 163, was passed in the House and is sponsored by State Representative Craig Staats (R-145) and State Representative Shelby Labs (R-143).

The House bill now awaits consideration in the Senate Judiciary Committee.

For more information on Senator Mensch’s legislation, visit www.senatormensch.com.  State updates can also be found on Senator Mensch’s Facebook at facebook.com/PASenatorBobMensch/ or Twitter @SenatorMensch.

CONTACT: Madison Scarfaro mscarfaro@pasen.gov  (215) 541-2388

Killion-Sponsored Landmark Criminal Justice Reform Signed By Governor

Drug treatment and intermediate punishments to be emphasized rather than incarceration for non-violent offenders

Legislation sponsored by Senator Tom Killion (R-Chester & Delaware counties) streamlining the placement of offenders in drug treatment programs and other intermediate punishment programs, and expediting the parole process for non-violent offenders was signed by Governor Tom Wolf within minutes of the Senate concurring by a vote of 38-11 in amendments made by the state House yesterday.

“Emphasizing drug treatment and punishments other than incarceration is the right thing to do for taxpayers, our communities, and those convicted of non-violent crimes,” said Killion.  “Breaking the cycle of addiction by streamlining the placement of offenders in drug treatment will make our criminal justice system more efficient, improve public safety and reduce the burden we ask taxpayers to bear.”

Killion’s legislation, Senate Bill 501, is part of a Justice Reinvestment Initiative (JRI) approach to reducing corrections spending and reinvesting savings in strategies to reduce recidivism and improve public safety.  Specifically, SB501 would amend Title 42 and Title 61 to:

  • Incorporate county intermediate punishment program into county probation;
  • Rename the State Intermediate Punishment Program as the State Drug Treatment Program and streamline the process for placement;
  • Allow parole agents to quickly detain parolees for violations; and
  • Help improve the process for paroling persons who receive a short sentence to prison.

Killion noted this plan builds on the success of JRI measures approved in 2012. Over the past six years, the inmate population in state prisons has been reduced by more than 4,000, and the crime rate has decreased by approximately 3.7 percent, providing $400 million in projected savings to taxpayers.

These new initiatives will further reduce costs in the justice system and ensure the money saved through these reforms is used to provide assistance to our county probation and parole offices in evaluating public safety risks and compensating crime victims, said Killion.

This bipartisan initiative has been a top priority for the governor and legislative leaders from both sides of the aisle. SB501 unanimously passed the Senate in June. The House inserted a few amendments earlier this month before passing the bill by a vote of 167-29.

Killion thanked the PA Department of Corrections, the Pennsylvania District Attorneys’ Association, the Administrative Office of Pennsylvania Courts, other law enforcement agencies and officials and others for their input and assistance in crafting the bill. 

“Addiction is a disease, and those suffering from it need treatment,” said Killion.  “Ensuring a non-violent offender gets the addiction treatment they need is smart, cost-effective public policy.  It reduces crime, promotes rehabilitation and saves taxpayers millions of dollars a year.

“I’m gratified for the bi-partisan support received by this landmark criminal justice reform bill and for the governor’s swift signing of the legislation.”

Senate Education Committee Approves Martin Bill to Protect Student Sexual Assault Victims

Listen

HARRISBURG – A proposal that would provide new protections for young victims of sexual assault earned the endorsement of a key panel in the Senate today, according to the bill’s sponsor, Senator Scott Martin (R-13).

Senate Bill 530, which was approved by the Senate Education Committee today, would mandate the removal of any student who is convicted or adjudicated delinquent of sexual assault against a student who attends the same school.

The legislation was created in response to a situation in one of the school districts Martin represents, in which a young woman was raped by her classmate. The assailant was charged and adjudicated delinquent for the crime, but when he returned from his sentence, the victim had to attend school with her attacker on a daily basis.

“No victim should have to go to school every day with the looming possibility of being forced to see and interact with the person who hurt them,” Martin said. “Young sexual assault survivors deserve nothing less than our unconditional support, love and understanding in the aftermath of their assault, and I am thankful we are one step closer to giving them the additional protection they deserve.”

The bill was sent to the full Senate for consideration.

CONTACT: Terry Trego (717) 787-6535

Senate Approves Bill Requiring Drivers Clear Snow/Ice from Vehicles

The Senate approved a measure on Monday (October 21) that would require drivers to remove ice and snow from their vehicles, according to Senator Dan Laughlin (R-49), a co-sponsor of the bill. Senate Bill 114 now goes to the House of Representatives for consideration.

“An 18-inch thick slab of snow and ice blown from the top of an SUV is bad enough, but just imagine an iceberg of that same thickness coming off the top of a semi as it barrels along an interstate highway,” said Senator Laughlin. “That negligence – regardless of the size of vehicle — is simply unforgiveable – especially if it results in a tragic accident. That’s why I co-sponsored this bill.”

The current law only penalizes a driver when serious bodily harm occurs from a snow or ice projectile. Senate Bill 114 would give police officers discretion to pull over a vehicle where the buildup of ice or snow poses a potential hazard.

Contact:           Matt Azeles                 mazeles@pasen.gov   (717) 787-8927

Senate Approves Regan Bill Supporting Law Enforcement Personnel

HARRISBURG – The Senate today unanimously approved legislation that would extend the Pennsylvania Heart and Lung Act to several law enforcement entities not currently included in the law, according to Senator Mike Regan (R-Cumberland/York), prime sponsor of the bill and Chairman of the Senate Veterans Affairs and Emergency Preparedness Committee.

The Pennsylvania Heart and Lung Act ensures that law enforcement officers who are injured on the job are paid their full salary and have their medical expenses paid while they recover.

“These men and women who protect their communities and our Commonwealth put their lives on the line everyday just as other law enforcement officers do for us,” said Regan. “Therefore, they are as deserving of disability benefits when injured on the job and are unable to work.” 

The law enforcement officers added under Senate Bill 439 include:

  • Department of Military & Veterans Affairs Fort Indiantown Gap Police
  • Department of Conservation and Natural Resources Park Rangers
  • Department of Corrections Commissioned Police Offices 
  • Office of Inspector General Investigative Staff
  • Allegheny County Port Authority Police
  • Allegheny County Housing Authority Police

Additionally, the bill would provide state universities, state-related universities, and community colleges the option to provide coverage to their campus police.  The same option would be provided to counties to cover corrections officers, jail guards, and probation officers.

 

“As former law enforcement myself, it is my honor to be the one to lead this effort to expand the Heart and Lung Act as a way to thank and recognize the sacrifices of those who have committed themselves to a dangerous line of work to serve and protect, despite the possibility of serious injury,” stated Regan.

The measure now goes to the House of Representatives for consideration.

To watch video of Senator Regan’s floor remarks, click here.

CONTACT:    Nate Silcox, 717-787-8524 nsilcox@pasen.gov

Killion’s Dangerous Dog Legislation Gets Committee Hearing

The State Senate’s Agriculture and Rural Affairs Committee held a hearing today on legislation authored by Senator Tom Killion (R-Chester & Delaware) to better protect the public from dogs proven to have caused severe injury to a person or a domestic animal.

“It’s unconscionable that a dog may severely injure someone unprovoked, and its owner not be held responsible,” said Killion. “But that’s the case under current state law. ‘Vicious propensity’ needs to be proven in court in order for a dog to be deemed dangerous, despite it causing severe injury.”

Killion drafted the legislation, Senate Bill 798, after hearing from several Chester County mothers, including Melissa Barnes of West Goshen, whose daughter was severely injured in an October 2018 dog attack.  Barnes, Sarah Hermans of Tredyffrin and Molly Carroll Newton of Phoenixville all testified at the hearing in addition to law enforcement officials and representatives from the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture.

“Despite almost losing her eye and having her face mauled during an unprovoked dog attack, the dog was cleared of all charges because we were not able to prove vicious propensity,” testified Barnes. “Those two words changed our world and allowed the system to fail our daughter.”

Under current law, a victim, the state dog warden or a police officer may file a complaint with a magisterial district judge charging the dog owner with the summary offense of harboring a dangerous dog.  In addition to proving that the dog in question has severely injured a person or domestic animal, it must be demonstrated that the dog has a violent history or propensity to attack.  This element of the offense often requires litigating the dog’s personality and temperament. 

Owners of dangerous dogs are obligated to, among other requirements, keep the animals leashed or within fencing, have the dog spayed or neutered and pay an annual registration fee.

Senate Bill 798 would require only that victims or authorities prove in court that the dog inflicted serious injury without provocation to secure a conviction.  The legislation also raises the annual registration fee for a dangerous dog to $1,000 from the current $500.

“While it’s too late to change our situation, my goal is that another child won’t have to go through what my child had to,” noted Barnes. “I refuse to live in fear in my own home and in my community. We have the right to walk up and down our street without being afraid.”

Agriculture and Rural Affairs Committee Chairman Sen. Elder Vogel (R-Beaver) indicated his support for the bill. Sen. Judy Schwank (D-Berks), the Democratic Chair, is a cosponsor of SB798.

“The injuries these children suffered were horrible, and Pennsylvania’s Dog Law handcuffed the courts from holding these dogs and their owners accountable,” said Killion. “My legislation keeps the focus on the attack at hand and will allow authorities to more easily secure a determination that a dog is dangerous.  It will better protect Pennsylvanians, particularly children, from dogs that have caused serious injury.”