Baker: Senate Judiciary Committee Approves Bills, Advances Board of Pardons Nomination

HARRISBURG – Yesterday, the Senate Judiciary Committee, chaired by Sen. Lisa Baker (R-20), approved legislation regarding increasing fines for littering, ensuring dignity for incarcerated women and reputing unlawful restrictive deed covenants.

The first bill approved would increase the maximum fine allowable for violations of the crime of scattering rubbish – commonly referred to as littering or dumping.

“Despite widespread volunteer and paid efforts to cleanup highways and neighborhoods, we remain plagued by individuals who persist in carelessly disposing of trash illegally. This adds to pollution problems, public health and safety problems, and diminishes property values,” Baker said. “The crime of littering is not charged often due to the difficulty of obtaining evidence. This bill would give courts more discretion to sentence appropriately.”

The committee also passed a bill that would provide dignity to pregnant and postpartum incarcerated women and juvenile detainees by restricting the use of restraints and restrictive housing and providing access to feminine hygiene products to inmates free of cost. This mirrors a law signed by President Trump that established policies and procedures for federal prisons. This legislation is needed to expand those same protections at the state and local levels.

“There is no justification for failing to treat women with appropriate care and dignity, irrespective of the circumstances that led to their incarceration,” Baker said.

Another bill considered would establish a procedure for property owners to repudiate unlawful restrictive covenants contained in recording instruments by establishing a process for property owners and homeowners association to strike such language without cost.

“Many people are surprised to discover that restrictive covenants still exist despite years of legislation designed to eradicate them,” Baker said. “These instruments are an embarrassing throwback to the time before significant civil rights legislation was approved and implemented. Such covenants are a blatant barrier to equality and opportunity and cannot be tolerated.”

The committee also advanced the nomination of Harris Gubernick for reappointment to the Pennsylvania Board of Pardons. Gubernick has been a member of the panel since 2011. He previously served as the director of corrections for Bucks County.

The bills and the nomination now head to the full Senate for consideration.

Cara Laudenslager

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