Pennsylvania Domestic Violence Public Policy Action

Pending Legislation

YOUR ACTION MADE A DIFFERENCE!

Thursday, October 16, 2014, the Pennsylvania senate unanimously passed House Bill 1796 after removing a problematic amendment having nothing to do with housing. The legislature sent the bill to the Governor for approval. Advocates from across the Commonwealth urged the senate to stand up for victims of domestic violence and pass this important housing protection.

A victim of a crime should never be punished for seeking help from those who are charged to serve and protect. In response to your advocacy, your senators showed that they agree! Please click here to thank your senator for supporting victims of domestic violence by voting "YES" to House Bill 1796. Please also give your senator a call and thank them for their support. You can find your senator's number by clicking here and you can access the roll call for the final vote here.

SUMMARY OF HOUSE BILL 1796
House Bill 1796, sponsored by Representative Todd Stephens (R-Montgomery), prohibits local nuisance ordinances from penalizing tenants for calling police to respond to domestic violence and other emergencies. Victims should not be forced to make the impossible choice between stable housing and police protection. The case of Briggs v Borough of Norristown illustrates the harsh options with which victims are faced. Ms. Briggs, the plaintiff in the case, was repeatedly attacked by her abuser, but each time refrained from calling the police because she feared that calling for help would result in her eviction due to a nuisance ordinance. Ms. Briggs' fears came true after a particularly brutal attack in which her ex-boyfriend slashed her throat with broken glass. After the attack, a neighbor called for emergency assistance. Ms. Briggs was airlifted to the hospital, and shortly thereafter the city forced her landlord to institute eviction proceedings. With the passage of House Bill 1796, such policies will be eliminated.
THANK YOU FOR YOUR TENACIOUS ADVOCACY AND SUPPORT FOR VICTIMS OF DOMESTIC VIOLENCE!

QUESTIONS?
Contact Abigail Hurst, PCADV Policy Specialist, at ahurst@pcadv.org or 717-545-6400 x157 for more information.

PENNSYLVANIA LEGISLATION

Safe and Affordable Housing

House Bill 1796 – Representative Todd Stephens (R-Montgomery)
PCADV Position: Support PN 2870, Oppose PN 3107

House Bill 1796, sponsored by Rep. Todd Stephens (R-Montgomery), would prohibit local nuisance ordinances from penalizing tenants for calling police to respond to domestic violence and other emergencies. On March 11, 2014, HB 1796 was amended in the Senate Local Government Committee with language that preempts local governments from requiring employers to offer paid or unpaid leave, including to victims of domestic violence and sexual assault. Leave from employment is often critical to a victim’s survival in both the short- and long-term. The bill is before the full Senate where PCADV is advocating to remove the employment leave language. Read PCADV’s position

House Bill 1218 – Representative Stanley Saylor (R-York)
PCADV Position: Support

In May of 2014, the Pennsylvania House of Representatives unanimously passed House Bill 1218 sponsored by Rep. Stan Saylor (R-York) after adopting an amendment that outlines tenants' rights in cases of domestic violence, sexual assault or stalking. PCADV urged the House to make safety for victims of domestic violence and their children a top priority by allowing for early lease termination when they are fleeing an abuser.
HB 1218 balances the needs of victims and landlords by allowing victims to avoid the costs of terminating a lease as long as they give their landlord 30-days’ written notice. The bill also requires a landlord to change the locks on the home at the request of a tenant who is a victim. The bill now waits for consideration in the Senate Urban Affairs and Housing Committee. Read PCADV’s letter of support

House Bill 1714 – Representative Scott Petri (R-Bucks)
PCADV Position: Oppose

Many victims of domestic violence must flee their home without warning--to shelters, family members or some for hospitalization as a result of their abuse--in order to seek safety. House Bill 1714 sponsored by Rep. Scott Petri (R-Bucks) removes the protection a formal eviction requirement provides for tenants by allowing a landlord to dispose of a tenant's property without court intervention, oversight or supervision. Through PCADV’s advocacy an amendment was adopted in House Urban Affairs Committee to extend the time a victim with a PFA has to retrieve her or his belongings. However, this amendment is inadequate to address the problem the overall bill creates by granting the landlord unbalanced authority to dispose of a tenant’s property without due process. HB 1714 passed the House of Representatives and the Senate Urban Affairs and Housing Committee. The bill now stands for consideration by the full Senate. Read PCADV’s letter of opposition

Senate Bill 1380 – Senator Elder Vogel, Jr. (R-Beaver)
PCADV Position: Support

PCADV supports the “Fund the Fund Campaign” charged with the task of securing a sustainable funding source for the Pennsylvania State Housing Trust Fund. Senate Bill 1380, sponsored by Sen. Elder Vogel (R-Beaver) and Sen. Shirley Kitchen (D-Philadelphia), would expand the Pennsylvania Affordability and Rehabilitation Enhancement Act (PHARE) to benefit the entire Commonwealth. SB 1380 would dedicate up to $25 million in future proceeds from the Realty Transfer Tax. The bill passed the Senate Urban Affairs and Housing Committee and awaits consideration by the full Senate.

Firearms and Background Checks

House Bill 1243 – Representative Todd Stephens (R-Montgomery)
PCADV Position: Support
House Bill 1010 – Representative Steven Santarsiero (D-Bucks)
PCADV Position: Support

House Bill 1243 sponsored by Rep. Todd Stephens (R-Montgomery) would require Pennsylvania to submit mental health records to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System. PCADV supports an amendment to HB 1243 that would take language from House Bill 1010 sponsored by Rep. Steve Santarsiero that would require a background check for all firearms, including rifles, shot guns and other long guns. Although the underlying bill was expected to receive a vote on this amendment several times in the spring, the House of Representatives has stalled on action. HB 1243 now awaits full consideration by the House of Representatives where PCADV is advocating for Amendment A06142 to be adopted and create universal background checks for purchasing firearms in Pennsylvania. Read PCADV’s letter of support to amend HB 1243

Utilities and Telecommunications

House Bill 1608 – Representative Warren Kampf (R-Chester)
PCADV Position: Oppose

Victims of domestic violence have a critical need for invariable access to affordable and reliable telephone communication service that is capable of connecting the victim to emergency 911 services, crisis and intervention services, and supportive friends and/or family. For a victim in danger, the inability to place an emergency call due to faulty or deficient technology places the victim and their children at increased risk for serious injury or even death. For these reasons, PCADV testified against House Bill 1608, sponsored by Rep. Warren Kampf (R-Chester) that would deregulate telecommunication services in Pennsylvania. PCADV requested several amendments to the bill that would strengthen protections for low-income citizens. The bill is currently in House Consumer Affairs Committee. Read PCADV’s testimony before the House Urban Affairs Committee

House Bill 939 – Representative Robert Godshall (R-Montgomery)
PCADV Position: Amend

The domestic violence exemption in Chapter 14 (66 Pa. C.S. § 1417) entitles victims with a Protection From Abuse Order to special billing and termination procedures, including: no liability for debts and arrearages accrued by the abuser; flexibility to make up-front payment of arrearages and/or security deposits; additional payment agreements and/or longer repayment period for arrearages; and an increased notice prior to termination. PCADV seeks to amend House Bill 939, sponsored by Rep. Bob Godshall (R-Montgomery) to expand these alternative billing and termination procedures to be accessible to victims of domestic violence that have a court order—such as a custody order or criminal protective order—a medical report, or police report providing evidence of domestic violence against the applicant. The bill passed the House of Representatives and waits for consideration by the Senate Consumer Protection and Professional Licensure Committee. Read PCADV’s position

Domestic Violence Fatalities

Senate Bill 850 – Senator Stewart Greenleaf (R-Montgomery)
PCADV Position: Amend
House Bill 30 – Representative Joseph Petrarca (D-Westmoreland)
PCADV Position: Amend

Domestic homicide is a grim reality of perpetuated domestic violence. Last year in Pennsylvania, there were 158 domestic violence fatalities; 107 of these deaths were victims, and 51 of these deaths were perpetrators. These victims were men and women, elderly and children, and spanned the socio-economic spectrum. PCADV seeks to amend Senate Bill 850, sponsored by Sen. Stewart Greenleaf (R-Montgomery), and the House companion bill sponsored by Rep. Joseph Petrarca (D-Westmoreland) that would create additional rights and privileges for organ procurement organizations. It is important to minimize the likelihood of trauma to surviving children and other family members as a result of the organ procurement process and procedure. PCADV’s concerns with SB 850 and HB 30 include the need to establish protections to: 1) help ensure domestic abusers are not able to consent to have a victim’s body donated, 2) safeguard meaningful informed consent and confidentiality, and 3) preserve a potential crime scene for evidence collection. It is critical that the amended law balances the rights of crime victims with any additional support to organ procurement organizations. Read PCADV’s testimony before the House Judiciary Committee, Subcommittee on Family Law

PCADV’s Goals – Funding for Victims

At the federal level, PCADV’s primary legislative goals are to:

  • Fully fund the Family Violence Prevention and Services Act (FVPSA)
  • Protect and increase the cap on the Victims of Crime Act (VOCA)
Visit our Funding page for more information about these vital programs.

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